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More Work Needed On Freshwater Rules

Changes to freshwater rules are a step in the right direction but more work needs to be done if the new Government are serious about restoring farmer confidence, Federated Farmers freshwater spokesperson Colin Hurst says.

"The National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management is without a doubt the most damaging regulation for farmers introduced by the previous Government.

"The rules completely undermine the viability of our rural communities. They’re impractical, expensive and go much further than is required to improve water quality," Hurst says.

Farmers are all for improving environmental outcomes. In fact, it’s farmers who are leading this work in regional communities - fencing waterways, planting natives, and improving biodiversity.

"We’re out there on the front lines and we want to see improvements just as much as anyone else. All we’re asking for are pragmatic, fair and affordable rules that will support us to get there.

A commitment given by the new Government today to rebalance Te Mana o Te Wai, delay implementation until 2027, and to eventually replace these rules with something more workable is positive in the longer term. "But in reality those changes will do very little to relieve the huge pressure farmers are feeling right now, which is being driven by unachievable freshwater bottom lines for nitrogen, phosphorus, e. coli, and sediment," Hurst says.

"A recent report by the National Science Challenge shows that the bottom lines that have been set for water quality couldn’t even be met in many National Parks, where there is no farming or industry."

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Federated Farmers also remain concerned about the introduction of strict new water quality standards by regional councils. Left unchanged, these plans will drastically change the face of farming as we know it in this country.

"Simply pushing out the dates for implementation probably won’t be enough to have councils stop work on this, because the National Policy Statement requires councils to give effect to the requirements of the regulations ‘as soon as practicable’.

"National, ACT, and New Zealand First all campaigned on making significant changes to these rules, but today’s announcement falls short of meeting the expectations of our rural communities "Federated Farmers will continue to work constructively with the Government next year to ensure freshwater rules achieve environmental improvements in a way that is practical and fair for farmers and rural communities," Hurst concluded.

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