Fresh feedback needed on freshwater plan

by Alice Chapman and Rebecca Merry (dairy farmers and lawyers in Northland)

It’s not too late to have your say on the government’s Essential Freshwater Package; the deadline for submissions has been extended to October 31.

Getting your head around the package and just how will it impact on your own property is no mean feat. The package’s objectives are worthy; to stop further degradation of waterways, make immediate changes to improve water quality, and bring waterways to a healthy state within a generation. Nevertheless, the time extension is much needed for landowners to properly understand the plan and make meaningful submissions on this important issue.

Elevated levels of nutrients and sediment in rural streams are associated with fertiliser use, stock grazing, tillage and other farm practices. The aspects of the proposal likely to have the largest impact on farmers in Northland include new regulations for stock exclusion and nitrogen use.

There may also be farmers impacted by new rules in relation to stock holding areas, feedlots and winter grazing.

Also proposed are new requirements for farmers to have Farm Environmental Plans and interim controls on intensification. The intensification rules may have major ramifications for land values and long term farm planning, which is often intergenerational, across all sectors and regions.

In our view, aspects of the plan that require further consideration are: what land uses are covered by the catchment proposals, how the regulations will be enforced fairly and the ability for approved assessors to take into account considerations such as science, topography and existing infrastructure with respect to compliance.

There has been comment in the media already regarding the love farmers have for their land and their general support of the principles behind the Essential Freshwater proposal.

However, as is so common in the law, the devil is in the detail. It’s important that all stakeholders in land and water management, on either side of the debate, provide feedback. We encourage you to educate yourself on the implications of the Freshwater Package and make a submission by 5pm October 31).
submissions.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/essential-freshwater-f483240c-4b48-4713-acaa-539915e31f4e/make-a-submission