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Government report confirms Horizons ‘Farmergeddon’


Government report confirms Horizons ‘Farmergeddon’

Farmers are aghast an independent analysis commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), for a Land & Water Forum (LawF) working group, has revealed the shocking impact of the Horizons One Plan upon agriculture.

“The elected council of Horizons resembles a shiver looking for a spine to run up,” says Hew Dalrymple, Federated Farmers Grain & Seed vice-chairperson and an environmental award winning farmer.

“Upwards of $15 million of ratepayers money has been spent on a plan that will make farming here damned difficult.

“Thanks to Landcare Research’s research, we now have a good handle on the One Plan as it stands following the Environment Court decision. It scarily confirms the impact upon farm profitability will be at the upper end of 22 to 43 percent.

“If you are a member of the public, take up to 43 percent off your post-tax income and you’ll understand why we are angry. That grows when one of our policy staff members described even this high level of impact as potentially ‘optimistic’.

“In spite of this Landcare Research report, the council is acting like someone who has been told they have a terminal disease. It is in denial. How many times and how many ways do they have to be told the current plan version is a dog before the penny drops?

“Instead of being an officer’s mouthpiece, the elected council needs to ‘grow some’ and take charge. Councillors appear to have little understanding of which version of the One Plan they are talking about, let alone its effect upon agriculture. They appear to treat what council officers tell them as gospel.

“The council must listen to proper research that comes directly out of the work done for LawF. Given LawF got a positive reception by almost all parties, is Horizons really thumbing its nose at it now?” Mr Dalrymple asked.

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president, Andrew Hoggard, shared Mr Dalrymple’s concern over the Plan’s social and economic effects.

“Our concerns only increase when you read the Council Chairman confusing the outcomes of the Decisions Version with what came out of the Environment Court. If the impact was really one percent, do you think our dander would be so up, now?” Mr Hoggard added.

“From Landcare Research’s work for LawF, it is clear the council did not provide the Environment Court a full appreciation of just how deep One Plan cuts. Instead, all it got was a flimsy analysis from the Horizons Regional Council.

“We have seen an Official Information Act answer staking out One Plan’s impact. When you get Wellington bureaucrats describing the social and economic effects as ‘significant’, the word concerned puts it mildly.

“What is gutting is that Federated Farmers was fairly happy with Decisions Version of the One Plan. This was decided by the council’s Independent Hearing Commissioners and we spent some two years preparing for and being in front of the Commissioners.

“What they came up with we could have lived with.

“This work by Landcare Research provides a circuit-breaker for the council and it would be unwise of them to ignore it.

“I fully back the Minister when he says Horizons call for calm is dumb.

“This belief we should just hold our tongues and wait and see how many farmers go broke, farm staff get laid off, or rural service businesses downsize impacting rural towns, is beyond dumb,” Mr Hoggard concluded.

A mini-case study: Mike and Tracey Collis’ Organic farm in Tararua:
This farming couple stated to look at the options for whole farm management in 2008, following the notification of the One Plan. At that time, Organic diary farming ticked all the boxes, economically and environmentally. Now fully organically certified, this same farm run by an award winning farming couple can no longer comply with the year one nutrient loss targets and faces an uncertain future. The current farming system incorporates all nutrient management mitigation options available. To reduce nutrient loss to comply with the year one targets in the One Plan will result in a significant loss of farm profitability and equity which jeopardises the survival of the business. If farmers and farming systems of this calibre cannot comply with the One Plan we must fundamentally question its appropriateness.

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