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Government Freshwater Package Responds To Rural Communities’ Anxiety

Changes to central government Essential Freshwater regulations reflect farmer feedback, Federated Farmers says.

"While we’re still working through the detail, the high level policy decisions indicate the government has heeded some of the rural sector concerns," Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

"What farmer groups seek now is the opportunity for input to ensure the final regulations and National Policy Statement matches the intent of the policies. And if the regulations are shown to be flawed or impractical, the government needs to be open to changing them."

Farmers and rural communities put a lot of time and effort into providing feedback on the initial proposals, outlining concerns with the practicality and cost, and the lack of recognition of work already underway on-farm.

The thousands of people who turned out at meetings up and down the country, organised by Federated Farmers and industry bodies Beef & Lamb NZ and DairyNZ, showed a level of unprecedented concern. As a result there have been much needed changes to timeframes, some of the water quality limits and rules around stock exclusion.

"The proposals still have some sharp edges that will bite our farmers and rural communities at a time when we need it least," Chris says.

Given there is no further opportunity for us to provide input into the national framework, as it will now become law, Federated Farmers is now focused on ensuring these proposals have an appropriate implementation plan.

"We want to work with the government and regional councils to this end. In particular we want to ensure there are no more amendments to national freshwater objectives so farmers know what they’re working towards.

"As we’ve been saying all along, we want regulation that recognises and responds to the good work farmers are doing, and the importance of food production to our communities."

That means supporting farmers to find the high value actions for improving water quality at a farm level in the catchments and hotspots where it is needed, building on the work farmers have been doing around fencing streams and rivers, planting riparian strips, covenanting land with outstanding biodiversity and investing in improved effluent systems.

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