Farmers want environment plan proposal scaled back

Day two of the freshwater plan hearing

Day two of the freshwater plan hearing

Stock photo

FARMERS argued against “excessive” farm environment plans (FEP) during the second day of the hearing into water quality issues in the district’s freshwater plan.

While representatives for Mangatu Blocks and Wi Pere Trust, and Federated Farmers said they supported FEPs to manage environmental effects of farming, they supported a submission from Matawai farmers earlier in the hearing that such plans should apply only to intensively-farmed areas.

Intensive v excessive

A FEP is an environmental risk-management tool which helps farmers recognise on-farm environmental risks. In the proposed plan farms with more than five hectares of dairy farming or intensively-farmed stock would need to design and implement an FEP.

Mangatu Blocks and Wi Pere Trust incorporated legal counsel Trevor Robinson said the percentage of Mangatu land that was intensively farmed varied year to year, but at present it was only 10 hectares out of 46,000, or about 0.2 percent. They wanted FEPs to only apply to the intensively-farmed section of farm, as applying it to the whole farm would be “excessive”.

Greg Tattersfield, a farm manager for Mangatu, said they only fitted the definition of “intensive” due to breakfeeding stock on that small area, 0.2 percent, and in future years that would only go up to about 0.5 percent. On Wi Pere Trust land only 240 hectares was intensive, or 3.4 percent of its total area. Matawai farmers had previously submitted the definition should include only farms intensively farming more than five percent of their land.

Flexibility needed

Federated Farmers provincial president Charlie Reynolds said there needed to be flexibility in the FEPs to account for different, and changing, farming practices. He asked who would be able to audit the plans.

“Does the council even have the knowledge and resources to measure them?”

Another factor for farmers was the cost.

“Who is going to pay the bill, because everyone is broke?”

Ngatapa farmer Hamish Cave said FEPs would be useful when looking at the farm “globally” and in preventing future damage to the farm. However, he wondered how they would be able to draw a plan for the year when the farming strategy was constantly changing, due to the changing market and weather conditions.

Stock and setbacks

On the issue of stock exclusion, senior policy adviser Debra Bidlake said they supported the council’s approach to focus on intensive stock areas. They were concerned about stock setback distances from waterways lacking scientific evidence.

Setbacks can be good in keeping sediment and ecoli out of waterways, but in irrigated pasture it is arbitrary unless catchment specific. They wanted setbacks managed through farm-specific FEPs, not “arbitrary setbacks”, and to have those apply to the specific catchment.

FARMERS argued against “excessive” farm environment plans (FEP) during the second day of the hearing into water quality issues in the district’s freshwater plan.

While representatives for Mangatu Blocks and Wi Pere Trust, and Federated Farmers said they supported FEPs to manage environmental effects of farming, they supported a submission from Matawai farmers earlier in the hearing that such plans should apply only to intensively-farmed areas.

Intensive v excessive

A FEP is an environmental risk-management tool which helps farmers recognise on-farm environmental risks. In the proposed plan farms with more than five hectares of dairy farming or intensively-farmed stock would need to design and implement an FEP.

Mangatu Blocks and Wi Pere Trust incorporated legal counsel Trevor Robinson said the percentage of Mangatu land that was intensively farmed varied year to year, but at present it was only 10 hectares out of 46,000, or about 0.2 percent. They wanted FEPs to only apply to the intensively-farmed section of farm, as applying it to the whole farm would be “excessive”.

Greg Tattersfield, a farm manager for Mangatu, said they only fitted the definition of “intensive” due to breakfeeding stock on that small area, 0.2 percent, and in future years that would only go up to about 0.5 percent. On Wi Pere Trust land only 240 hectares was intensive, or 3.4 percent of its total area. Matawai farmers had previously submitted the definition should include only farms intensively farming more than five percent of their land.

Flexibility needed

Federated Farmers provincial president Charlie Reynolds said there needed to be flexibility in the FEPs to account for different, and changing, farming practices. He asked who would be able to audit the plans.

“Does the council even have the knowledge and resources to measure them?”

Another factor for farmers was the cost.

“Who is going to pay the bill, because everyone is broke?”

Ngatapa farmer Hamish Cave said FEPs would be useful when looking at the farm “globally” and in preventing future damage to the farm. However, he wondered how they would be able to draw a plan for the year when the farming strategy was constantly changing, due to the changing market and weather conditions.

Stock and setbacks

On the issue of stock exclusion, senior policy adviser Debra Bidlake said they supported the council’s approach to focus on intensive stock areas. They were concerned about stock setback distances from waterways lacking scientific evidence.

Setbacks can be good in keeping sediment and ecoli out of waterways, but in irrigated pasture it is arbitrary unless catchment specific. They wanted setbacks managed through farm-specific FEPs, not “arbitrary setbacks”, and to have those apply to the specific catchment.

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