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F4PC welcomes ‘Healthy Water, Healthy Future' Statement

Farmers for Positive Change (F4PC) congratulates environmental, recreation and public health groups for coming to a united position on the Government’s freshwater reform and finds significant areas of agreement with the Healthy Water, Healthy Future joint statement.

Rural communities are always at the forefront of F4PC concerns because community and people are the true backbone of New Zealand that reflects the spirit, culture and values we are all enormously proud of and must defend.

In F4PC opinion, if the proposed Essential Freshwater Package was tidied up it will not ‘throw farmers under the tractor’ but instead create a pivotal point that farmers could apply to positively examine and review their land use and farm systems to achieve better outcomes.

F4PC have noted that the Health Water, Healthy Future statement largely agree with its own core values and principles:
• Rules and associated environmental bottom lines should be effects-based and supported by good, robust, and defensible science;
• Grandparented contaminant losses to current farm levels inappropriately and irrationally rewards farms with land use having the highest contaminant loss rates;
• Contaminant loss reductions must be undertaken now by those who have the highest loss rates; and
• Farm plans should not be regulatory instruments but rather their strength lies in them being a living document, which reflects land use opportunity based on the natural capital of the land. Farm plans should not be used as a tick-the-box compliance tool to legitimise misplaced land use with some wrap around green washing mitigation.

F4PC wish to point out, however, that there is a need to amend some of the proposed Essential Freshwater Package rules to ensure farmers are not tasked with actions that are impractical, or are unreasonable, and which irrationally reward land use and farm systems that have the highest contaminant loss.

Farmers should not be falsely targeted and reprimanded where they have on their own volition and at their own expense, are already doing great environmental work.

Farmers should not be penalised because they operate low impact, low environmental footprint farm systems by being denied flexibility to take up available headroom where such exists to optimise further their farm system and counterbalance any additional costs of production and compliance.

Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of land use, which is misplaced and / or poorly managed, and this will demand commencement of tactful, yet honest conversations underpinned by regulatory bottom lines. Continued environmental harm and nuisance because of excessively high contaminant loss, whether from rural or urban sources, must be reduced or mitigated where it originates to avoid cumulative impacts upon ecosystem and human health. However, there is no quick fix and it will take a ‘generation’ of time. F4PC are suggesting that this be aimed progressively with interim milestones towards the year-2050.

In conclusion, while the Essential Freshwater Package requires some achievable amendments, we cannot allow the Essential Freshwater Package to become stalled and lose momentum. It is widely recognised that better water quality is important to us all with change needing to be embarked upon now to avoid further degradation and begin a restorative process.

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