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Fears That Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 Could Stifle Good Farming Practices

Proposed new regulations for the Waikato and Waipā River Catchments outlined in Plan change 1 have raised serious concerns in the agricultural sector.

This was underlined by the turnout of more than 90 farmers, industry body and council representatives at a public meeting at Ohinewai Hall organised by Federated Farmers North Waikato District Chair Steven Stark.

Federated Farmers North Island Policy Manager Dr Paul Le Miere said the purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for farmers to gain a better understanding of the recent Plan Change 1 (Healthy Rivers) decision and its implications, and to provide feedback to Feds, Waikato councillors and others.

Useful changes have been made to the framework of the plan, but there are remaining concerns and issues around the detail of the proposed regulations that will need to be addressed through the Environment Court Appeal process, Le Miere said.

"Rather than wading through the hundreds of pages of council documents themselves, Feds is encouraging farmers to read through our FAQs and focus on the council schedules to understand how PC1 may affect your farm," he said. These are available on the Federated Farmers website (fedfarm.org.nz).

Federated Farmers Auckland President Alan Coles says farmers raised concerns that the new land use controls are not fit for purpose and will not achieve the water quality improvements everyone is keen to see. The overall sentiment remains that over-reliance on the consenting process will tie limited resources up in regulatory knots and create perverse environmental outcomes.

Federated Farmers will be running more meetings and workshops around the Waikato and Waipā catchments in the coming weeks to ensure all affected farmers are given the opportunity to understand the implications for their farming businesses and provide feedback.

Feds Waikato President Jacqui Hahn says the proposed regulations could stifle good farming practices if on-farm decisions are taken out of farmers’ hands and placed in the hands of consent officers who do not have practical on-farm experience. The stock controls being applied over Class 6e land were most often referred to as troublesome in this regard.

Federated Farmers and other non-farmer submitters are required to file an appeal by the 8th of July 2020. All individual farmer and grower who submitted have until the 18th of August 2020.

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