Dairy group backs tough land use rules
The high threshold required for land use change under Healthy Rivers Plan for Change has been backed by the Waikato Dairy Leaders Group.
The group fears further forestry-to-dairy conversions, such as those seen in Upper Waikato in the past few years, could lead to tougher long-term mitigation targets for existing farmers.
Group chairman Michael Spaans said they supported Healthy Rivers and its goal of a 10 per cent reduction of nutrient levels over 10 years and the 80-year goal to make the Waikato and Waipa Rivers swimmable. But if large-scale land use change continued, that 10 per cent reduction target could change.
‘‘The real concern is that the 10 per cent could be a much bigger number and that would make a number of dairy farmers unprofitable and could lead to, without being too dramatic, a collapse on the dairy industry in the Waikato region and the economic impact of that would be quite significant,’’ Spaans said.
That would filter through to the wider community and have an impact on the rural economy.
‘‘If we don’t do something and don’t do something that’s achievable and economic, then we are in for some real significant pain going forward.’’
Any future growth had to be done in a responsible way with its impact on existing farmers taken into account.
The Waikato Dairy Leaders Group was formed three years ago to provide oversight and direction to those advocating for dairy farmers during the Healthy Rivers plan process.
It consists of the chairpeople of Miraka, Tatua, Open Country Dairy, Dairynz, a director and shareholder councillor from Fonterra and the president of Waikato Federated Farmers.
Dairynz and Fonterra management also support the group.
Spaans encouraged dairy farmers to attend the current round of meetings so they could fully understand what the plan meant. The meetings outlined what the plan entailed and how farmers could meet the required targets.
The dairy sector could end up in a worse position if the plan change was thrown out because it could be replaced with something that was much more restrictive, he said.
‘‘We think it’s quite achievable for farmers to meet those targets.’’
Waikato Dairy Leaders Group chairman Michael Spaans