The Government’s new proposed low-slope map for stock exclusion is better than the original, however the map still won’t practically work on the ground, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).
The Government is consulting on a revised map after the original mis-identified thousands of hectares of steep land across New Zealand as ‘low-slope’ and therefore requiring stock exclusion or fencing. It is also consulting on a proposed certified freshwater farm planning approach.
B+LNZ has today released factsheets outlining key issues and guidance for farmers on both consultations and will be making submissions incorporating farmer feedback. It will also be making a submission on the changes to the intensive winter grazing rules, announced last week.
B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the original low-slope map for stock exclusion was unworkable and wouldn’t have delivered good environmental outcomes.
“We recognise the Government’s efforts to fix the map and we acknowledge the revised map is a lot better.
“However, our view is that it’s not the best approach. Since the stock exclusion regulations were first proposed, our position has been that the map should be replaced with a general stock exclusion rule that regional councils would be empowered to give effect to.
“The new mapping approach still has inaccuracies and does not provide regional councils with enough flexibility. Where the cost and effort required to exclude stock vastly outweighs the environmental risks and impacts, there needs to be scope to address those situations.
“The proposal still doesn’t take into account the fact that requiring stock exclusion on some of the identified 0-5 degree slope land would be inefficient or ineffective, especially given the waterway or catchment characteristics.
“Based on the feedback we’ve been getting from farmers, we believe the Government has underestimated the scale of the remaining problems with the map.
“With the current levels of satellite information, we do not believe it’s possible to get a national-level map accurate enough to determine where stock exclusion should occur.”
B+LNZ also has reservations about the freshwater farm planning approach outlined in the current consultation.
“B+LNZ was originally one of very few agricultural organisations to oppose the Government’s plans for a mandatory certified freshwater farm plan,” says Mr McIvor.
“We reluctantly agreed to this approach, along with all other agricultural groups, provided input regulations were avoided and there was an industry-led, outcomes based, non-prescriptive approach to the plans.
“We still have significant concerns about using farm plans as a compliance tool. Historically, farm plans were intended to add value to the farming business and help inform management decisions to unlock the productive potential of the land while managing environmental effects.
“The adjustment of farm plans into a more regulatory space does not mean they can’t still be used to support farmers to make good decisions. However, we need to ensure they are still designed by farmers and for farmers rather than imposed on farmers.
“Our guiding principles are that the freshwater farm plan should be based on industry-led farm plan approaches, be practical, effects-based and not input-based, as well as ensuring the privacy of farmers’ data.
“We’re pleased to see that what’s outlined in the discussion document picks up many of B+LNZ’s advocated positions, and the practical farm planning solutions we put forward.
“However, the content is relatively high-level and the devil is always in the detail. We need to see the detailed regulations on the farm plan to be able to make a proper assessment.
“We are also asking the Government for assurances there will be a further opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations once they have been drafted.”
B+LNZ’s factsheets on the low-slope map and freshwater farm plan consultations are available here: https://beeflambnz.com/low-slope-map-changes-and-freshwater-farm-plans
For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Katie Jans on firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 838 6353