Farm­ers stay strong over plan change

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - GERALD PIDDOCK

Stand up for your­self, be strong and don’t back down.

That is the ad­vice Tau­marunui-based farm con­sul­tant Ge­off Bur­ton had for Waikato dry­s­tock farm­ers as they start to come to grips with the im­pli­ca­tions of farm­ing un­der Healthy Rivers Plan for Change.

Speak­ing at a Farm­ers for Pos­i­tive Change meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 10, Bur­ton said Waikato farm­ers must learn from the mis­takes those in Taupo made when they faced a sim­i­lar plan change.

That change ul­ti­mately led to a ni­tro­gen cap on land use around the lake. At the time, Bur­ton chaired Beef+Lamb NZ’s Taupo mon­i­tor farm pro­gramme which looked at the im­pact on farm­ers. He is also a mem­ber of the Taupo Lake Care Group.

Farm­ers not only had to get in­volved in the process but they also had to keep con­trol of the is­sue. That meant be­ing pre­pared to ‘‘do their bit, but not more than their bit’’, he said.

‘‘That’s what hap­pened in Taupo. We lost con­trol and, sit­ting here to­day, I see that you’re in danger of los­ing it.

‘‘Don’t be pushed around. Don’t go along to meet­ings and say, ‘Oh, is that what we have to do?’,’’ he said.

Taupo farm­ers also mis­tak­enly trusted pol­icy mak­ers not to put their busi­nesses in jeop­ardy. Bur­ton said he was not anti-coun­cil as it was crit­i­cal farm­ers and the coun­cil main­tained dia­logue and kept com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines open.

‘‘But you have to stand up and be strong. Your at­ti­tude is most im­por­tant and let them know you’re go­ing to be strong too be­cause this is your fu­ture you are talk­ing about.’’

He warned farm­ers not to ac­cept with­out ques­tion the sci­ence used to es­tab­lish nu­tri­ent dis­charge lim­its. That sci­ence had to be con­tin­u­ously chal­lenged.

The pro­posed plan change was not only a wa­ter qual­ity is­sue but was also about healthy ru­ral com- mu­ni­ties which were as im­por­tant as the health of the wa­ter. A long-term vi­sion of 50-100 years was es­sen­tial, he said.

‘‘If you go ahead 100 years, a clean river might be one thing, but it’s all go­ing to fall over if you have a clean river go­ing through towns and farm­land that is not be­ing well farmed and is not pro­duc­ing for that com­mu­nity or New Zealand as a whole.’’

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment agen­das tended to fo­cus ex­ces­sively on en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions, re­sult­ing in an in­com­plete solution that was un­sus­tain­able.

‘‘Pol­icy-mak­ing both at lo­cal and cen­tral gov­ern­ment lev­els changes fre­quently, re­sult­ing in a lack of long-term vi­sion and an in­com­plete un­der­stand­ing of the com­plex­ity of the is­sues and its ef­fects on com­mu­ni­ties.’’

Farm­ers had to de­mand lo­cal gov­ern­ment pro­duce a cost­ben­e­fit anal­y­sis that looked at the long-term so­cial and eco­nomic ef­fects of the plan change.

‘‘Your sat­is­fac­tion with this cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis should be your main con­di­tion.’’

If the plan change went ahead as it was, dry­s­tock farm­ers could ex­pect not to be able to re­alise the full sus­tain­able po­ten­tial of their farm busi­nesses.

Stock num­bers, land value, pro­duc­tion and in­come would ef­fec­tively be frozen while on­farm costs would steadily in­crease, he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.