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One Plan change ‘moving in the right direction’

One Plan change ‘moving in the right direction’

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Farmers inside the Horizons Regional Council boundaries are breathing a sigh of relief that options for a change to One Plan are to be investigated.

Tararua Federated Farmers President Neil Filer said since the Environment Court rulings on the One Plan, many hundreds of farmers and growers in the region have been operating without a resource consent through no fault of their own, and with no clear path forward.

"We’ve been in limbo, and the council has been struggling to catch up.
"But at the meeting of council’s Strategy and Policy Committee today, all the language was around the need for a Plan change. That’s a big positive, and farmers feel things are heading in the right direction again," Neil said.

The frustrating aspect for farmers - and no doubt the council - is that we were making significant progress on water quality milestones. For example, of 168 consents granted to date for existing farms in target catchments covering nearly 33,000 ha (about 20% of the region’s entire dairying area), farms had reduced nitrogen leaching by about 9%, or 100,000kg. Things were on track to double that total reduction by the time the estimated 400 consents for existing dairy farms were processed.

Some 58 per cent of 36 monitored sites improved for total oxidised nitrogen (TON) and none were in decline.

The report to councillors acknowledged that a significant number of existing farms are unlikely to be able to meet the current One Plan nitrogen-reduction requirements while remaining economically viable. And there is no pathway under the current plan for farmers to receive a consent.

Horizons officers are gathering more detail on likely social and wider economic impacts but Neil said it’s common sense that when farmers are under the financial cosh, so are the rural communities and towns.

Councillors heard that producing/commissioning the level of technical information that would now be required for a restricted discretionary consent would cost $30,000-$40,000 per farm, and council’s processing costs would be on top of that.

Six case studies of modelled farms involving low to high density dairy farms in Tararua, and arable farms in Rangitikei, showed that reducing activity to meet the target nitrogen levels mandated after the Environment Court ruling would cut farm profitability by 24-64%. Paradoxically, given the driver of One Plan is limiting the impacts on the environment, more intensively farmed properties are likely to be more resilient.

"The whole situation is entirely unsatisfactory and unsettling for farmers," Neil said. "We’re pleased that the council has recognised this and will focus on options for a Plan change."
ENDS

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