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MFE the Wrong Choice

10 September 2004

MFE the Wrong Choice

Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) emphatically supports a comprehensive review of river control and flood-risk management for both urban and rural areas, but is equally emphatic that the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) should not lead the review.

Federation President Tom Lambie said appointing MfE risks making the review an environmental issue only.

"Flood and river control is of huge economic importance to national and provincial economies. The Ministry for the Environment has no proven leadership role when it comes to economic development."

Mr Lambie's comments follow Environment Minister Marian Hobbs announcing the review to examine current approaches to river control and flood management.

"Any review must be led by an economic ministry such as Economic Development or Agriculture and Forestry, and involve the Treasury, local government, and the MfE," Mr Lambie said

"The Environment Minister appears to not understand the enormity of the economic uncertainty she has introduced by announcing a review without having finalised any of the detail, terms of reference, or time frame.

"Flood-affected farmers are incurring substantial debt and making significant re-investment in their business right now. They cannot afford to have their new investment wasted because the government has decided to have a slow-time rethink.

"Federated Farmers will take every opportunity to have its say in the review, which will hopefully recognise that rate-based mechanisms for funding stop banks and river control schemes are outmoded and hugely inequitable.

"Farmers know about risk management. They insure their buildings and individuals pay many thousands each year in flood scheme rates. But they are tired of their farms being sacrificed to protect cities and townships built on floodplains.

"Central government handed this task to regional councils over the 1980s and 1990s, without thinking it through. We now have schemes run by regional councils made up of overwhelmingly urban-based councillors, many of whom fail to understand the economic value of their scheme to all in the community - urban and rural alike," Mr Lambie said.

ENDS

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