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Feds: Pragmatism finally prevails on winter grazing

Farmers will breathe a considerable sigh of relief over news the government has accepted most of the Southland Advisory Group’s winter grazing recommendations, and will now consult on proposed revised rules.

"Everyone wants strong protection for our waterways but from the day they came out Feds had said a number of aspects of the Essential Freshwaters winter grazing rules were simply unworkable," Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

The Southland Advisory Group is testament to how inclusive processes involving local communities and informed stakeholders are able to produce good results.
"It’s good to see the government taking a pragmatic view - a stance we’re also looking for across more of the multitude of issues they are imposing on farmers in the next three years.

"We’ll take this as a win for common sense, and for consistent advocacy for pragmatism by Federated Farmers and others," Chris said.

"We never give up hope that common sense will eventually prevail, especially when COVID makes it clear New Zealand’s prosperity to a large degree depends on our primary industries’ export earnings."

Key changes recommended by the Southland Advisory Group, which included Federated Farmers Southland Vice-President Bernadette Hunt and two other farmers, included deletion of pugging and replanting date conditions and replacement with a requirement to protect critical source areas.

Where permitted activity conditions cannot be met, the group wanted an alternative pathway by way of a winter grazing module to be submitted to the farmer’s regional council, and subject to audit.

The government has accepted these key changes, and others.

The Advisory Group recommended that winter grazing should be allowed on slopes of 15 degrees or less (removing the requirement to determine the mean slope of a paddock). Instead the government has settled on a 10 degrees slope maximum.

"Federated Farmers will work through the consequences of that change and respond accordingly once we’ve spoken to our members."

Chris said that ‘making noise’ (such as the early call by Federated Farmers Southland to avoid applying for winter grazing consents) was necessary to get the attention of Ministers But once that had happened, getting in a room with multiple parties and coming up with sensible alternatives was the only way forward.

"That is the Federated Farmers mode of operation with all of the regulation coming at us at the moment. Noise is sometimes absolutely necessary to open doors and start conversations. Then the noise has to stop and the hard work begins - and that is where the real change comes from, and where the expertise of the large Feds policy team backed up with practical farmer knowledge and experience, really shows its value."

The proposed new winter grazing rule changes are due to take effect on November 2023.

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