Farmer group backs study find­ings

South Waikato News - - Farming - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

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.

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 is fi­nal­is­ing a plan in­clud­ing those costs us­ing 40 of the farms its eco­nomic ser­vice sur­veys for its an­nual out­look re­ports. That re­port will be out early 2017.

Bill Gar­land ad­dresses farm­ers at a Farm­ers for Pos­i­tive Change meet­ing.

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