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Ecan plan threatens the Canterbury lamb

13 September 2012

Ecan plan threatens the Canterbury lamb

Adverse weather is not the only thing threatening sheep farmers. Unless changed, the proposed Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (LWRP) means sheep farmers could be among the first farmers to be declined resource consent.

“A radical feature of Canterbury’s Proposed Land and Water Regional Plan is consent to farm under nutrient discharge rules,” says Chris Allen, Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury Provincial President.

“The big problem for any farmer, forester, wine maker or market gardener, revolves around incredibly tight tolerances for land use change. Most farmers, like me, will not have nitrogen leaching conditions on a water consent because sheep farmers tend to be dryland ones.

“The practical impact means a good lambing may increase stock by just a few animals. When running this through a nutrient management tool called Overseer, it may tell me my nitrogen loss has increased 10 percent. That triggers an uncertain resource consent process.

“As large parts of Canterbury are defined as ‘red zones,’ we know the proposed default decision on land use change will be to decline.

“So that leaves me with two stark choices that sicken me as a farmer. Either we carry less stock, underperforming productively and commercially, or some may be forced to dispose of lambs to remain compliant.

“That’s not farming. It is dumbly following numbers punched out by an imprecise tool.

“While existing farming activities will be permitted for five years it is all subject to recording nitrogen losses in Overseer. I have real concerns about making Overseer central to the regulatory process. It has severe limitations which must be acknowledged in the plan.

“For me to get an accurate assessment of my farm’s nutrient performance, means a big chunk of my time will be taken up as a data entry operator; data doesn’t enter itself.

“Doesn’t this contradict the signals sent by the Emissions Trading Scheme? More lambs mean greater production efficiency, lowering the carbon footprint of what we produce.

“It also strips away the certainty I need to invest in more environmentally desirable kit.

“A 10 percent estimated increase in nitrogen loss for defining land use change should alarm every part of the primary industries. It is based on your farm or orchard’s average for the preceding two years so one poor season could seriously skew things.

“I can tell you 10 percent is wafer thin for sheep farmers. Consent to farm will substantially limit land use change and better farming practices. Such rigid rules risk either freezing farm practice in time or spurring radical high-input indoor farming.

“We need to get a message out there that any land-based agricultural and horticultural use is impacted by the LWRP. It is vital for farmers to read the plan, identify matters of concern and submit. If they are a member, they can provide feedback to inform Federated Farmers’ submission.

“As well as submitting on the plan in collaboration with our wider primary sector colleagues, Federated Farmers will continue to interact with Ecan at an officer and commissioner level.

“Our goal is a workable plan that balances the environment with the economic wellbeing,” Mr Allen concluded.

The proposed Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan:

The whole plan is available at: http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Plans/lwrp.pdf

A submission form is available at: http://ecan.govt.nz/publications/Plans/proposed-clwrp-submission-form.pdf

ENDS

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