Ringing in the changes | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Ringing in the changes

B+LNZ Director Andrew Morrison discusses the legislative changes that impact on Southland’s sheep and beef farmers.
Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Change is a constant

The four-yearly Olympics are a great way to mark the passage of time.

It is interesting to look back at all that has happened, both nationally and internationally, since the London Olympics. Who would have foreseen Brexit – or Donald Trump as a presidential candidate? Change is a constant and it is up to us whether we embrace it or resist it.

In the past 12 months, some significant legislative changes have arisen that are impacting on our farming businesses.

Health and Safety workshops prove popular

Health and safety legislation was passed into law in April and it has been gratifying to see so many farmers attend the B+LNZ Farm Safety Management System workshops. In our region alone, we had around 780 farmers attend – the highest turnout in any region – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Farmers often comment that the regulations are not nearly as onerous as they had expected.

Submissions on Water and Land plan

The big issue for our region is the Southland Regional Council’s draft Water and Land Plan. It will impact on everybody, but I have been pleased to see more than 200 sheep and beef farmers attend B+LNZ-organised meetings about the proposed plan.

In the past, our organisation has captured farmers’ ideas and used them to put together a single submission on behalf of the industry. Now we are helping farmers develop their own submissions – an approach we believe will be more powerful than a single voice.

Dedicated environment team

B+LNZ is lucky to have a great environmental policy team which identifies the key issues and informs farmers about how proposed legislation could affect their businesses. Basically, they do the hard-yards of wading through policy documents, so the rest of us don’t have to.

Four years ago B+LNZ didn’t have anyone operating solely in the environmental space. Now there is a team of seven working hard to keep abreast of regulatory changes and requirements. This is a reflection of the rapid changes in this area. All farmers want clean water and a healthy and safe environment – and so it’s up to us all to play our part. To this end, B+LNZ is developing a Farm Environmental Management Plan (FEP) template specifically for Southland. It builds on the well-recognised principles associated with land and environment policy.

Farm Environment Plan template

The intention will be to coordinate one-day workshops to help farmers identify opportunities for efficiency gains in their business. Importantly, the FEP will also help demonstrate to the wider community that sheep and beef farmers are good caretakers of the land. Unlike some regions, Southland farmers are not yet required to complete an FEP, but I would urge farmers to consider pre-empting regulatory requirements by attending a workshop and putting a plan together. These plans are working documents and should be considered an everyday farm management tool.

Andrew Morrison is Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Southern South Island farmer director. You can contact him on 027 6644 620.