Group backs study findings
Ginger group Farmers for Positive Change have largely backed the findings of a recent study showing the potential costs of cleaning up the Waikato and Waipa Rivers.
Those costs ranged from $0-$500,000 for hill country fencing and water reticulation in order to comply with the Waikato Regional Council’s Healthy Rivers Plan for Change, according to the Waikato Federated Farmers Farm Environment Plan Project.
Group chairman Rick Burke said the numbers came as no surprise.
‘‘If you are going to put up fencing properly that lasts the test of time, it’s going to be very expensive.’’
The government also had to take some responsibility for those costs. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Government lent landowners money to clear land for pasture under the land development encouragement loan scheme, he said. ‘‘You can’t lump this all on farmers.’’ Farmers for Positive Change was formed to push for changes to the Healthy Rivers plan change because they believed it was unfair, inequitable and unsustainable.
The Project looked at the costs involved on 24 Waikato farms for developing farm environmental plans (FEP) and implementing its recommendations under Healthy Rivers Plan for Change.
It was jointly funded by Waikato Regional Council, Federated Farmers Waikato, Fonterra, DairyNZ and the Foundation for Arable Research.
Burke said the study was too narrowly focused. While it included the cost of calculating nitrogen reference points - a requirement for farmers under the plan - it did not include how that cost would affect on-farm incomes.
While Burke accepts this cost was not part of the study’s brief, it was the crux of his group’s opposition to the plan.
‘‘But the rest of it is useful and will definitely make the [Waikato Regional] Council think about the cost on farmers.’’
Those N reference points are calculated using Overseer and are the highest annual leaching loss in either the 2014/15 or 2015/16 season. They are also used to help guide future farming practices.
Beef+Lamb New Zealand was finalising a plan that would include those costs using 40 of the farms its economic service surveys for its annual outlook reports. That report would be completed by early next year.
Bill Garland addresses farmers at a Farmers for Positive Change meeting. Behind him is group chairman Rick Burke and Rob Macnab.