Sheep and beef sector cautiously positive about Government’s Essential Freshwater Announcement

“The sheep and beef sector is cautiously positive about the Government’s announcement today but needs to see the detail of the actual regulations and some concerns still remain,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) CEO Sam McIvor.
Thursday, 28 May 2020

“The Government’s updated Essential Freshwater proposals announced today appear to be an improvement on earlier plans, but the government has only released a high-level summary of its proposals and the devil is always in the detail.

“It is pleasing the Government appears to have responded to feedback from farmers and made changes to critical areas of its Essential Freshwater package, but there remain areas of concern for the sheep and beef sector and things that we need to clarify.

“Last year, we met with close to 4,000 farmers to hear their views on the proposed package. Farmers told us they were committed to improving water quality, that they wanted certainty and they outlined both the aspects that they supported and were concerned about. We have continued to advocate for those on farmers’ behalf.

“We’re pleased the Government has removed its prescriptive farm environment module and the most concerning “grandparenting” provisions that would have locked in New Zealand’s lightest environmental touch farmers to existing farm systems without the flexibility to respond to changing climatic and market conditions.

“While a farm plan will still be mandatory, the Government has committed to working with the primary sector on what farm plans should include and how they’ll work practically and cost effectively to improve environmental performance within a farming system.

“It’s also good to see a more practical approach taken to fencing requirements on hill country, recognising that most of the environmental risks can be managed through other actions, rather than needing to fence all of the hill country.

‘While it is good that the Government has narrowed the restrictions on land-use change, philosophically we do not agree with this kind of blunt instrument, as land-use does not automatically relate to environmental impacts.

“We also welcome the Government’s approach to further reviewing the science on nitrogen limits.

“However, we remain concerned about the blanket requirement for consents for any hill country cropping, and the complicated provisions for grazing animals on forage crops. We believe the Government could have achieved its objectives in a more targeted way and which recognises that these activities can be managed effectively through a farm plan.

“The timing of the announcement is far from ideal as farmers have been dealing with COVID-19, processing delays, feed shortages and drought across the country.

“B+LNZ is also concerned that the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and amendments to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management have not been released. “We need to see these to fully understand what is being proposed,” says Mr McIvor.

“B+LNZ will engage with the Government to clarify elements of what was announced today and work to ensure that what is written in the standards is consistent with the policy intent. We will also be engaging closely with government and regional councils to ensure the new rules can be practically implemented in a consistent way.

“B+LNZ has been working on farm environment planning and practical tools to assist farmers, many of whom have been investing in environmental improvements over the last few years. We welcome the money in the Budget recently announced for environmental projects, and we will be working hard to ensure that this money goes to farmers who will be doing the work on the ground.

“Over the past two months, the red meat sector has played a critical role in underpinning the New Zealand economy through the COVID-19 crisis, and there’s widespread acknowledgement that the sector and its 92,000 employees will play a key role is leading our export-led economic recovery.”

“Our farmers remain committed to continuing to improve their environmental footprint as it’s vital both to New Zealand’s future and to the protection of our brand to consumers.”
 

ENDS

For more information, please contact Sam Halstead on 027 474 6065.