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Ministers’ guesstimates and assurances unfounded

The Government is struggling to justify its water policy as its guesses around costs are increasingly at odds with expert estimates, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller and Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson say.

“While Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor stated in Parliament the cost to farmers of meeting the Government’s proposed new water policies would be just one to two per cent, LandCare has estimated the drop in farm revenue for a case study catchment would be more likely to fall between seven and 46 per cent,” Mr Muller says.

“An AgFirst report, commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment states shifting to a five metre fencing setback on a Waikato Bay of Plenty dairy farm will come at a cost of 40 per cent of earnings over a ten year period.

“Both Local Government New Zealand and LandCare report that over half of the Waikato-Waipa catchment and almost 100 per cent of the Clutha catchment would need to be converted to permanent forestry to achieve the policy’s bottom lines.”

“Environment Minister David Parker first seemed unaware of these estimates, dismissing them as nonsensical scaremongering. Today he claimed that they were wrong, despite the report being linked on the consultation website,” Mr Simpson says.

“Farmers are rightly feeling confused and worried. Mr Parker assured New Zealanders ‘Trust me, I know what I’m doing’, but he has released 2,000 pages of technical reports with various costs and impacts. The suggestion that the reports don’t all apply just adds to the confusion.

“The LandCare report clearly states that the substantial costs incurred by farmers may drive farmers to change their land use or shift their employment to non-agricultural work all together.

“Releasing 2,000 pages of material during calving and lambing is not fair on farmers. Ministers need to extend the consultation period to twelve weeks and provide clearer analysis of what the impacts of the proposals will be.”

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