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Central government intimidation must stop

28 August 2008

Central government intimidation must stop

Federated Farmers Gisborne/Wairoa president Hamish Cave says big brother intimidation from central government over local government must stop.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has placed the Gisborne District Council in a difficult position. MAF threatened the council with withdrawing the East Coast Forestry Project, a grant scheme for planting on erosion prone land. This was six million dollars per year the council could not justify losing and therefore has been bullied into introducing a new level of regulation for farmers to comply with," Mr Cave said.

The Gisborne District Council confirmed their decision today to regulate land use on 51,000 hectares of hill country land in the Gisborne district. The new regulations mean that large areas of hill country will effectively be excluded from pastoral grazing and retired for tree planting. And even tree planting in these areas will have to meet special conditions.

"It is like owning a supermarket and being told you can only use half the shelves to display your stock. Sheep and beef farmers are already suffering from a high dollar and low lamb and wool prices. With further loss of income these rules will make some farms in the province unviable.

"A soil conservation plan is not about protecting environmental values at all cost. It is about enabling communities to provide for their well being while minimising adverse effects on hill country soil erosion.

"Landowners are environmental custodians as their business depends on the natural and physical resources available to them. It is in their best interests to protect and manage these resources. Farmers already invest large amounts of time and capital into the management of eroding land.

"Addressing the perceived 'unsustainable' land use activities on the worst eroding areas by requiring the retirement of land will only shift the problem as more pressure will be put on the rest of the land by farmers attempting to recoup production losses," Mr Cave said.

Mr Cave says although the decision was another nail in the coffin for some hill country farmers he acknowledged the council had made some useful changes and had resisted the urges from MAF, DOC and Landcare Research for erosion controls to go much further and include a much larger land area for retirement.


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