Feds happy farm­ers ‘lis­tened to’

The Southland Times - - FRONT PAGE - EVAN HARD­ING

Rec­om­mended changes to the pro­posed South­land Wa­ter and Land Plan sug­gest some con­cerns of farm­ers have been lis­tened to, ‘‘and right­fully so’’, a se­nior Fed­er­ated Farm­ers mem­ber says.

En­vi­ron­ment South­land of­fi­cers, who sat through the months-long Wa­ter and Land Plan pub­lic sub­mis­sions hear­ing this year, con­veyed their fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions to the five hear­ing com­mis­sion­ers yes­ter­day.

The hear­ing com­mis­sion­ers will take the rec­om­mended changes on board when mak­ing their fi­nal de­ci­sions; but a coun­cil spokes­woman said they held no more weight than any other sub­mis­sion.

‘‘It’s just part of the in­for­ma­tion the panel will use to de­lib­er­ate.’’

Doug Fraser, the Feds pol­icy chair­man, agreed af­ter yes­ter­day’s hear­ing that the fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions in­di­cated some of the farm­ers’ con­cerns had been lis­tened to.

But it re­mained to be seen what the fi­nal out­come of the wa­ter and land plan would be, with hear­ing com­mis­sion­ers to make their de­ci­sion next year.

‘‘Whether the hear­ing com­mis­sion­ers go far enough to make it palat­able to the farm­ing com­mu­nity re­mains to be seen ... let’s hope it’s not go­ing to be too detrimental to the to­tal South­land econ­omy.’’

The plan, put to­gether by En­vi­ron­ment South­land, seeks to main­tain wa­ter qual­ity in South­land. It pro­poses to man­age farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that con­trib­ute to dis­pro­por­tion­ate amounts of con­tam­i­nants such as ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rous and sed­i­ments from en­ter­ing wa­ter­ways.

The ma­jor­ity of the pro­posed poli­cies and rules in the plan that re­lated to farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties were op­posed by many farm­ers dur­ing the pub­lic hear­ing.

In par­tic­u­lar, the phys­io­graphic zones, hectare-based win­ter graz­ing rules, wa­ter body set­backs and cul­ti­va­tion rules raised con­cerns among many farm­ers.

En­vi­ron­ment South­land has di­vided South­land into nine phys­io­graphic zones in the plan, each rep­re­sent­ing ar­eas of land­scape with com­mon at­tributes that in­flu­ence wa­ter qual­ity.

Two of the zones, called the Old Mataura Zone and the Peat Wet­lands Zone, have pro­posed rules that place re­stric­tions on new dairy con­ver­sions and have tighter in­ten­sive win­ter graz­ing re­quire­ments.

Fraser pre­vi­ously said at the hear­ing that the pro­posal to limit the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of farm­ing prac­tices in some ar­eas of South­land was based on ‘‘grossly in­ac­cu­rate’’ phys­io­graphic zon­ing and would have enor­mous fi­nan­cial ef­fects on farm­ers.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day, Fraser said he was con­fused about what the of­fi­cers’ lat­est rec­om­men­da­tions were around the phys­io­graphic zones.

‘‘They are say­ing they rec­om­mend tak­ing the phys­io­graphic zone maps out of the plan ... and later in the re­port they are ac­tu­ally dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing farms ac­cord­ing to phys­io­graph­ics.

‘‘It seems to be a mixed mes­sage to me.’’

En­vi­ron­ment South­land se­nior staffer Anita Dawe, when asked to clar­ify, said the of­fi­cer has rec­om­mended re­tain­ing the phys­io­graphic zone poli­cies but re­mov­ing the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of rules in each zone that was pre­vi­ously in­cluded.

The lat­est rec­om­men­da­tions also al­low many farm­ers more land to win­ter graze their stock on, by go­ing from a hectare-based thresh­old to a per­cent­age of farm area, which many farm­ers had asked for.

‘‘Of­fi­cers rec­om­mend a [win­ter graz­ing] thresh­old at 15 per cent of land area, with an up­per thresh­old of 100 hectares of in­ten­sive win­ter graz­ing,’’ the re­port rec­om­mends.

Fraser said the lat­est rec­om­men­da­tion around win­ter graz­ing was a ‘‘more re­al­is­tic way of look­ing at it’’.

In­ten­sive win­ter graz­ing is a fea­ture of South­land farm­ing be­cause of re­duced grass growth in win­ter months, and it is also ac­knowl­edged as a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to con­tam­i­nants get­ting into wa­ter bod­ies, the re­port to com­mis­sion­ers says.

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