Beef, pig and deer farmers to face stream-fencing requirements

Beef, pig and deer farmers to face stream-fencing requirements

Beef and deer farmers, along with outdoor piggeries, are set to face the same stream-fencing requirements as dairy farmers following the latest recommendations of the Land and Water Forum, while commercial and industrial water users may be required to start measuring their takes.

The consensus-making body established seven years ago to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management delivered its fourth report to Environment Minister Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy this morning, with a warning from its convenor, Alistair Bisley, that the forum’s consensus was “unlikely to last” if its recommendations were not “substantially” implemented.

On some counts, the government has implemented only around 15 percent of the recommendations already received in three previous reports, although the creation of a National Policy Statement and National Objectives Framework for freshwater management are seen as major steps, while yesterday’s release of a Resource Management Act reform package paves the way for more of the forum’s recommendations to be implemented.

These include the ability to regulate to require fencing waterways to keep livestock out of them, rather than the current reliance on voluntary measures, and enshrining in law the capacity to undertake collaborative decision-making processes, of which the forum was the first experiment.

“My officials advise that 80 percent of the recommendations have, in full or in part, been implemented, particularly with the introduction of the RMA reform bill yesterday,” Smith told BusinessDesk at the launch, although forum members put that total at perhaps more like 50 percent to 60 percent.

The government will publish a public discussion document early next year, which will include consultation on the politically charged issue of iwi water rights, which this week saw a right-wing ginger group involving former National and Act party leader Don Brash publish attack ads in national newspapers, claiming a deal is being done to favour Maori over other New Zealanders on access to water.

On that issue, Smith said the government was “having discussions with iwi leaders and there are some useful steers from significant water users”.

“The Prime Minister has made quite plain that there will be no national settlement (of Maori claims to water under the Treaty of Waitangi), that water is not to be owned by anybody, but is a public resource and that this needs to be worked out catchment by catchment,” said Smith, who foreshadowed substantial progress on settling long term freshwater management policy towards the end of 2016.

Bisley said in a statement that “the resolution of iwi rights and interests in fresh water is essential to an enduring system of freshwater management in New Zealand.”

Today’s report was “clear that the Crown should protect existing rights and ensure costs are not to be transferred to other parties.”

Among the latest LAWF report’s most significant recommendations is extending the requirement to exclude livestock from waterways to cover lowland beef, deer and pig farms, as well as the dairy industry, which claims that as much as 95 percent of waterways are fenced after a decade-long voluntary effort.

The new recommendations seek to deal with the practical difficulty of fencing waterways on steep, farmed hill country and lowland areas where flooding may regularly wash out fencing.

The forum recommends that mandatory exclusion from waterways should apply to all dairy milking platforms from July 2017, to all dairy grazing land owned by the same person as owns the milking platform by 2020, to all third party dairy grazing by 2025, to all beef and deer farms on alluvial plains by 2025 and on lowland hills by 2030, and to pig farms by July 2017.

On metering for commercial and industrial water users, Smith stressed that “water metering is a decision for local councils and many of our big councils already have water metering.

“What this report does challenge the government to think about is, having implemented water metering on farmers down to those that take five litres per second … would it not also be fair to require those large commercial and industrial users that are also taking a similar scale of water to also be required to meter?” said Smith. “That’s an issue in this report that we’re going to have reflect on. It has some merit.”

However, the government would not require councils to water meter households, nor to charge households for water use on the basis of the volume of water used.

Scoop Independent News by Pattrick Smellie