Dairy group backs tough land use rules

South Waikato News - - Community Cookbook - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

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

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