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Rein In Rates And Show Some Backbone Over Water Rules, Feds Urges ECan

Federated Farmers is strongly urging Environment Canterbury to demonstrate financial discipline and stick with current water plans developed with the community, rather than cave in and start a $25 million exercise re-writing them.

Feds Mid-Canterbury President David Clark and fellow Ashburton farmer and national board member Chris Allen said the Federation’s Canterbury membership of around 3000 are outraged and hugely disappointed with the very large rates increases proposed.

Most farmers face bigger hikes than the overall average of 24.5% in the financial year starting July 1.

"No business has the luxury of unlimited income, especially farmers who as price takers cannot just increase their prices. ECan should be no different," Clark told councillors at a hearing this morning.

The Federation called on ECan to relentlessly focus on value for money and ensure its spending is targeted, controlled and phased over the decade. It needs to prioritise what it must do by law, not on aspirational extras.

"Option 2 provides for that and would take the overall average rates increase down to 18% - still miles too high but better than 24.5%," Clark said.

Clark and Allen recalled the bad days of 11-12 years ago when there was a huge disconnect between urban Christchurch and the hinterland.

"It’s concerning that after a decade of generally good engagement and improvements in outcomes that the rural-urban disconnect seems to be growing again. If ECan leaves the community behind, undermining the good connections forged with landowners over the years, environmental gains may be slowed or lost," Clark said.

Nine years of exhaustive consultation, $60m-$70m of rates, and huge changes to farm practices underpins the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan. Federated Farmers sees little benefit to the environment re-writing that plan in response to the government’s Essential Freshwater package, but $25 million of extra costs to locals.

"Far better for ECan to defend the current plan and targets in place and agreed with the Canterbury community."

Federated Farmers also questioned why costs had to be frontloaded into first two years of the Long-Term Plan rather than being smoothed out over the decade. It argued the uniform annual general charge, at $41.55, is way too low and lifting it would more fairly and evenly spread costs of services across all ratepayers.

The Federated Farmers full written submission to Ecan can be found here - https://www.fedfarm.org.nz/FFPublic/Policy2/Regional/2021/Submission_on_Environment_Canterbury_Long_Term_Plan_2021-231.aspx

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