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As farmers are excluding stock, why regulate?

Media Release

3 September 2014

As farmers are excluding stock, why regulate?

With the water quality of New Zealand’s water bodies generally stable to improving, using the law to enforce stock exclusion from the start of the 2017/18 season implies the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord has failed, when in fact, it has been an outstanding success.

“Government needs to think carefully about the policy message this will send,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“The voluntary Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord is an outstanding success. It’s a marvelous example of dairy farmers, industry and councils all working together for better environmental outcomes.

“In just over a decade, stock has been excluded from some 23,000 kilometres of waterways. That’s enough fencing to go from Auckland to Beijing and back again, with a one way trip to Queenstown.

“As of last year we’d hit 90 percent of the target with 100 percent stock exclusion in the voluntary Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord to be achieved by 31 May 2017.

“Stock exclusion may appear voluntary at an industry level, but it is a Fonterra condition of supply, so for farmers, it’s effectively compulsory,” Mr Hoggard said.

Farmers on the West Coast will be concerned given they and Westland Milk Products have worked closely with Westland Regional Council due to the Coast’s unique environment.

“Most farming on the Coast is more extensive than intensive,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Provincial President.

“That said, there’s been a hell of a lot of work to put in fences, bridges and culverts on those farms unable to meet permitted activity rules. It proves the system is working since the more intensive guys and farmers like me, in sensitive catchments, have had to fence and bridge.

“The Coast’s permitted activity rules relate less to stock exclusion and more to conspicuous pugging or slumping given the volume of rain we get. Stock crossings are limited to animal numbers and times per month and rules like this have been in place since about 2004.

“Basically, it is an effects and intensity model and is delivering positive results. Our guys have worked with the Department of Conservation on whitebait spawning habitat education.

“Riparian rules are the last resort here and waterways that have been fenced off and planted are marvellous looking where looked after. Older ones with boundaries either side of creek are full of blackberry, broom and gorse and are frankly an unfishable eyesore.

“It’s all good to say you can put up a portable fence but beef runs are miles from power. Portable solar units run slow as we’ve learned and cows also figure this out quickly too,” Ms Milne explained.

Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre was concerned that with some politicians wanting to exclude all stock on all farms, extensive farm systems would become almost impossible to farm

“The biggest environmental issue for drystock farmers isn’t pure stock exclusion but land stability and combatting erosion,” says Rick Powdrell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“As drystock farmers, we use Beef+Lamb NZ’s superb Land and Environment Plans, which are worked through regionally with many councils. The problem we have with blunt regulation is that it might solve one problem but cause many more.

“The practicalities of steep gullies, flash flooding and invasive noxious weeds, means it’s nigh impossible to fence off every single waterway. You are talking topography and nature.

“We’ve found one of the best ways to keep cattle out of water is to provide shade trees and reticulated water, giving them the chance to keep cool and away from a waterway.

“While fencing is tax deductible as an enhancement to land, what isn’t, is the equipment to provide stock drinking water and that’s vital to keep them from waterways.

“If Government wants to help out then instead of gestures they would be better to look at the tax treatment of water reticulation and stock crossings,” Mr Powdrell concluded.

© Scoop Media

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