“We understand farmers’ fears about the recent activity by councils to map Significant Natural Areas (SNAs),” says Andrew Morrison, chairman of B+LNZ.
“In regions such as Northland and on the West Coast where SNAs are currently being mapped, up to 60-80 percent of land on farms would be defined as an SNA, and it is currently not clear what activity farmers will be able to undertake on that land.
“We understand that off the back of submissions by farmers in 2019 the Government is planning to make changes to the originally-proposed rules and we encourage them to make this clear to ease the concerns of farmers.
“We also recommend the Government ask regional and district councils to pause their mapping of SNAs until the policies are clearer,” says Mr Morrison, who met with Minister Shaw this week to discuss farmers’ concerns.
“Farmers are not against the protection of biodiversity and they actively manage native vegetation on thousands of farms across the country.
“We want to give farmers the ability to integrate indigenous biodiversity within their pastoral systems and to be recognised for the benefits existing habitats on farm provide, as well as to be rewarded for their work to protect native species.
“Policies should ensure that biodiversity is an asset for farmers.
“Research by the University of Canterbury estimates that on average about 25 percent of sheep and beef farms are covered in native vegetation and our farmers are very proud of this.
“B+LNZ is encouraging the Government to commit to narrowing the definition of SNAs and to clarify the rules to ensure that agricultural production and the protection of biodiversity can co-exist.
“B+LNZ also wants the Government to consider carefully the staging of the introduction of any new rules.
“There is a lot of regulation coming at farmers at present,” says Mr Morrison.
“Some of the essential freshwater rules still need to be fixed and then implemented, while 25 percent of farmers must know their emissions number and have a plan to manage and reduce those emissions by the end of the year.
“We are therefore also encouraging the Government to delay the release of the new Biodiversity National Policy Statement until at least the end of the year.”
B+LNZ is also continuing to raise concerns with the Government about the perverse incentives that are driving wholesale conversion of productive land into carbon farms.
“We want limits to be placed on forestry offsetting before more damage is done to rural communities,” says Mr Morrison.
“A better way is to recognise the real sequestration currently happening on sheep and beef farms and to support farmers to undertake further plantings within their own farm systems in an integrated way that optimises land-use, while at the same time ensuring that rural communities continue to thrive.”
For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Katie Jans on firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 838 6353