Farmers say freshwater plan needs to be more practical

Want the work they already do to be recognised.

Want the work they already do to be recognised.

FARMERS have pushed for the proposed regional freshwater plan to be more “practical” and better recognise the work they already do.

During this week’s hearing on the plan, several submitters raised concerns around the effects of forestry harvests, stock crossings, farm environment plans (FEPs) and culvert sizes.

The hearing was covering sections in the proposed plan, including Waipaoa catchment plan, riparian margins, activities on the beds or rivers and lakes, and hazardous substances.

Federated Farmers senior policy adviser Debra Bidlake said they were happy about installing culverts and removing barriers to fish passage, but a big issue for them was the restrictive time frame and costs.

“It is also difficult to interpret the rules.”

For many farmers, a big issue was being downstream from forestry.

They wanted an exception in the plan about having to install bridges and culverts when forestry was in harvest.

Ms Bidlake said a survey of 25 percent of their farmers found 90 percent were dealing with debris from forestry slash and 80 percent had lost a bridge or culvert because of it.

Regional president Charlie Reynolds said it was a “big issue” for him.

He owns a sheep and beef farm, which goes up to the Ormond forestry block. A stream runs through the block into his property and he gets a lot of debris and sediment.

“When it floods it all builds up. The creek used to be nine feet deep. Now it is only three inches.”

In the 2015 floods he lost one bridge, three culverts and 10 kilometres of fencing.

Stock cross onepart of the stream more than twice a week so he would need a crossing under the plan.

Due to the stream width, it would cost upwards of $100,000 and he fears it could easily get swept away.

Ms Bidlake also raised concerns about wetlands protection requirements.

Most farmers surveyed could not identify a wetland and were not restoring them, she said.

“What the plan sees as a wetland they see as productive land. The plan needs to get the incentives right to encourage planting and restoration.”

One example was only being able to remove exotic species when in some areas it was more practical to remove self-seeding natives.

The plan needed to have more “practicality” so farmers did not lose what they considered productive land.

The main concern for Matawai Farmers Group was the minimum proposed culvert size of between 375 millimetres and 450mm in diameter.

Farmer Bill Gaddum had multiple crossings on his farm and to change them all would cost a lot of money.

He wanted the plan to enable farmers to make decisions based on their own experience.

He had many culverts that were between 150mm to 200mm and they had survived heavy rainfall and flooding following Cyclone Bola.

FARMERS have pushed for the proposed regional freshwater plan to be more “practical” and better recognise the work they already do.

During this week’s hearing on the plan, several submitters raised concerns around the effects of forestry harvests, stock crossings, farm environment plans (FEPs) and culvert sizes.

The hearing was covering sections in the proposed plan, including Waipaoa catchment plan, riparian margins, activities on the beds or rivers and lakes, and hazardous substances.

Federated Farmers senior policy adviser Debra Bidlake said they were happy about installing culverts and removing barriers to fish passage, but a big issue for them was the restrictive time frame and costs.

“It is also difficult to interpret the rules.”

For many farmers, a big issue was being downstream from forestry.

They wanted an exception in the plan about having to install bridges and culverts when forestry was in harvest.

Ms Bidlake said a survey of 25 percent of their farmers found 90 percent were dealing with debris from forestry slash and 80 percent had lost a bridge or culvert because of it.

Regional president Charlie Reynolds said it was a “big issue” for him.

He owns a sheep and beef farm, which goes up to the Ormond forestry block. A stream runs through the block into his property and he gets a lot of debris and sediment.

“When it floods it all builds up. The creek used to be nine feet deep. Now it is only three inches.”

In the 2015 floods he lost one bridge, three culverts and 10 kilometres of fencing.

Stock cross onepart of the stream more than twice a week so he would need a crossing under the plan.

Due to the stream width, it would cost upwards of $100,000 and he fears it could easily get swept away.

Ms Bidlake also raised concerns about wetlands protection requirements.

Most farmers surveyed could not identify a wetland and were not restoring them, she said.

“What the plan sees as a wetland they see as productive land. The plan needs to get the incentives right to encourage planting and restoration.”

One example was only being able to remove exotic species when in some areas it was more practical to remove self-seeding natives.

The plan needed to have more “practicality” so farmers did not lose what they considered productive land.

The main concern for Matawai Farmers Group was the minimum proposed culvert size of between 375 millimetres and 450mm in diameter.

Farmer Bill Gaddum had multiple crossings on his farm and to change them all would cost a lot of money.

He wanted the plan to enable farmers to make decisions based on their own experience.

He had many culverts that were between 150mm to 200mm and they had survived heavy rainfall and flooding following Cyclone Bola.

Process slammed

THE proposed regional freshwater plan hearings and submissions process has placed an “unfair” burden on submitters, says a Matawai farmer.

In an individual submission during this week’s hearing on the final sections of the plan, Neil Henderson told the panel the process was undemocratic, costly for submitters and covered things farmers were already doing.

Initially there was only meant to be one hearing but that was extended to four.

“We are having to spend money on making submissions and re-doing farm environment plans when we could spend that money on things we need on the farm.

“For me to have appeared at all four of these hearings would have had a negative impact on my farm.

“We set up a budget for one hearing. I consider it an abuse of our democratic rights.”

He already had good farming practices, he said. He had been planting willows in gullies to counter erosion, installing culverts and fencing stock from waterways.

The plan asked farmers to make more changes but did not allow enough time.

“It is an unfair burden on our resources. Much of it is what we as farmers are doing now. Why do we need to change what we are doing?”

Farm Environment Plans were ultimately a good thing, but many already had something in place.

“We do need plans but if we have already done them why do we need to do them again? It gets up our noses.”

Commission chair Mark Farnsworth responded to Mr Henderson by saying they greatly appreciated the time submitters took, and especially personal accounts from those that would be directly affected by the plan.

“We want to hear what you have to say.”

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