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Taupo decision not to be appealed

3 December 2008

Taupo decision not to be appealed

Federated Farmers has confirmed it will not be lodging an appeal in the High Court challenging the recent Environment Court decision on Environment Waikato's "Lake Taupo Variation", Variation 5 to the Waikato Regional Plan.

"The decision not to appeal was taken with a heavy heart. The implications of the Environment Court decision is gut wrenching for the farmers affected by it," said Federated Farmers President, Don Nicolson.

"Councillors, lawyers and council officers lose sight of the fact that these are real people who have invested their blood, their sweat and their tears into their farms. They are decent people who care about their lake and who now face an uncertain future.

"Federated Farmers senior policy analysts have reviewed the decision alongside senior legal counsel from Simpson Grierson. Our legal advice is that an appeal to the High Court, while possible, would be unlikely to succeed. Even if it was successful, it would be unlikely to result in any significant change to the Variation. We have reluctantly accepted that advice.

"The review makes it clear the implications of this decision will be confined to the Lake Taupo Catchment only. This will provide some degree of comfort to farmers in other areas. This decision has absolutely no bearing on any other part of the country. If other councils think about using this decision in their plans, the Federation was ready for a major fight.

The Federation also said the decision showed up all that was bad about how the Resource Management Act (RMA) has evolved. "Farmers need to and do care for their environment. It's their future. They operate in the natural elements everyday and harvest the land for the benefit of the community.

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"The Lake Taupo decision shows the sustainability ethic in the RMA has become inherently imbalanced. Economic, social and environmental issues need to be in balance and without it, the lives of real people are being seriously impacted. I hope the new government is listening as they move to review the RMA.

"We are also concerned about the significant financial implications this decision foists onto affected farmers. It highlights a concern we have that farmers are being adversely impacted by planning provisions without compensation.

"If these farms were needed for a new airport they would receive full compensation. Yet this decision under the RMA gives councils around Taupo the mandate to dictate stock levels, wiping thousands off the value of each hectare. What do farmers receive for this? Nothing.

"Overall we are very disappointed at this outcome. There are some outcomes from the Federation's challenge that might prove useful but these pail when compared to the implications of this decision. As President, I promise our members we will advance their interests to get practical and workable solutions for them," Mr Nicolson concluded.

Federated Farmers Ruapehu and Rotorua/Taupo presidents, Lyn Neeson and Gifford McFadden, also expressed deep concern for affected farmers. A meeting with those members is being held on Tuesday, 16 December. Federated Farmers is now providing direct policy support in caucusing with Environment Waikato to limit individual effects of Variation 5. The Federation is also attempting to promote more flexibility around district council subdivision rules for affected farms. Additionally, the Federation is providing support in negotiating with Environment Waikato on a number of other issues.

Ruapehu president Lyn Neeson was still in shock over the decision, "I remain shocked. I think some people think it only affects farms backing onto the Lake, when in fact, it impacts farms many kilometres from the Lake with no line of sight to it. It leaves families in limbo and with no prospect of fair compensation. These are young smart farmers that will now be selling up to move to Australia. As a profession and a country we can't afford to lose these talented people and their families.

"I think it is a sad indictment on the last government and its priorities that it could afford to buy a high country lease in the South Island for $40 million, land the government already owned, but it did nothing to compensate farmers for slashing the value of their farms. I just want to know what the new government will do about it," she finished by saying.


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