Tighter re­stric­tions around farm­ing un­veiled

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

Pro­posed new rules could see Waikato farm­ers fac­ing a mul­ti­tude of re­stric­tions around how they farm their land.

The most sig­nif­i­cant rules in­clude ex­clud­ing all stock from wa­ter­ways from 2025 and mak­ing land use change a non-com­ply­ing ac­tiv­ity and there­fore re­quir­ing a re­source con­sent.

The rules were com­plied by the Col­lab­o­ra­tive Stake­hold­ers Group (CSG), which is tasked with rec­om­mend­ing new rules to the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil to im­prove the re­gion’s wa­ter qual­ity.

To be pre­sented to the coun­cil in June, they will even­tu­ally be­come a plan change.

They were out­lined over the past few weeks to dry­s­tock farm­ers at a se­ries of Beef+Lamb New Zealand work­shops de­signed to ob­tain feed­back that CSG rep­re­sen­ta­tives could take back to the group. The fi­nal work­shop in Otoro­hanga was at­tended by about 30 farm­ers.

CSG dry­s­tock rep­re­sen­ta­tive James Bai­ley stressed the rules had not been fi­nalised and were open for change.

‘‘It’s ba­si­cally a straw man [model]. There’s a lot of changes to be made in the mean­time even though there’s not a lot of time left be­fore the rec­om­men­da­tion goes through.’’

Bai­ley said farm­ers had put for­ward some tough ques­tions to the CSG at the meet­ings. Most had been around the ex­clu­sion of live­stock from wa­ter­ways.

‘‘Ev­ery­one re­alises we have to come to the party with stock ex­clu­sion, but there is just a few places that it’s just not prac­ti­cal and pro­hib­i­tive ac­tiv­i­ties around that rule are too lim­it­ing.’’

Pro­hibit­ing live­stock from ac­cess­ing lakes, wetlands and per- en­nial wa­ter­ways would be the tough­est rule for dry­s­tock farm­ers be­cause of the topo­graph­i­cal na­ture of their farms, he said.

Any ma­jor in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion would also re­quire a re­source con­sent.

The CSG out­lined the rules in a de­ci­sion tree de­signed to help landown­ers de­ter­mine whether their land use was a per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity.

Any land less than 4.1ha, ex­clud­ing com­mer­cial veg­etable crop­ping, was clas­si­fied as a low- in­ten­sity ac­tiv­ity and was there­fore per­mit­ted. This was de­signed to re­move small life­style block own­ers with a hand­ful of live­stock from the rules.

Landown­ers with more than 4.1ha but graz­ing live­stock at less than eight stock units a hectare win­tered were also clas­si­fied as low-in­ten­sive farm­ers who were there­fore un­der­tak­ing a per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity.

Only two peo­ple at the meet­ing in­di­cated they were farm­ing at less than eight stock units a hectare. This made farm­ers ques­tion the ef­fec­tive­ness of this rule.

Re­gional coun­cil­lor Alan Liv­ing­stone said it was de­signed for the first 10 years of what is an 80-year plan to im­prove Waikato’s wa­ter qual­ity and cre­ate a ‘‘draft­ing gate’’ to sep­a­rate the low-in­ten­sity farm­ers from the rest.

‘‘We have to fo­cus on the high­risk guys. The re­sources just aren’t there to go across the board on ev­ery­one.’’

Farm­ers with a higher stock­ing rate and who had com­pleted an in­dus­try scheme such as a Beef+Lamb en­vi­ron­ment plan or DairyNZ’s sus­tain­able milk plans were clas­si­fied as op­er­at­ing a per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity.

Those with­out a plan and clas­si­fied as farm­ing in a low-risk area would have to meet sev­eral con­di­tions be­fore their prac­tices be­came a per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity.

Those with­out a plan and farm­ing in a high-risk area would have to ob­tain a re­source con­sent and farm un­der an en­vi­ron­men­tal plan.

The Col­lab­o­ra­tive Stake­hold­ers Group, tasked with for­mu­lat­ing poli­cies around im­prov­ing Waikato’s wa­ter qual­ity, has re­leased th­ese doc­u­ments to farm­ers at a se­ries of work­shops across the re­gion over the past few weeks. They out­line rules that may come into be­ing later this year.

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