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The Government’s controversial freshwater reforms have been passed into law and while they have noble aims, I’m concerned they will not deliver the desired result, but will potentially make farming even more difficult for little benefit.

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020, National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020, Stock Exclusion Regulations, and Measurement and Reporting of Water Takes Regulations took effect from last Thursday 3 September.

The trouble with setting blanket reforms like this is that they don’t take into account the diversity of factors affecting water in different regions. The Taranaki Regional Council argued the blanket nationwide nutrient limits proposed last year lacked credible scientific basis, were out of line with comparable overseas criteria and would substantially restrict farm output for no clear benefit to stream health, hitting rural communities hard. 

In Taranaki for example, our waterways have extra natural phosphate in runoff from the Mountain. Farmers here have made huge progress in land management. Our riparian planting programme is an example to the world of how a cooperative approach between land-users and regulators can achieve environmental benefits. We all want better water quality and I back what our farmers are doing to improve their systems and efficiently serve top quality produce to market.

In its submission, the Council asked why the Government wanted to harm the industry in this way, when Taranaki’s mountain-fed rivers are rated in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ bands for ecological health by the Government’s own measure. Their ecological health has, with only rare exception, been stable or improving for a decade or more.

We need agriculture to help us in the post-covid recovery. These new regulations will put huge costs and restrictions on the industry at a time when farmers need freedom to innovate.

National recognises the need for a sustainable approach and encourages the constant improvement of our waterways.

Farmers already know they have a job to do, so it doesn’t make sense to put restrictive bureaucracy in their way. Instead, let’s work with them and other environmental stakeholders to establish solutions that are practical, science-based, and achievable.

We’ve come a long way since the days when abattoirs, factories and farms used to discharge waste directly to streams. Some parts of the country have further to go that others, and Taranaki is leading the way.

So let’s support our local farmers, acknowledge their progress and encourage them to keep innovating and developing world class environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

I’m always interested in your feedback, and if there’s something I can help you with, please contact my office 06 7591363 newplymouthmp@parliament.govt.nz

 

Jonathan Young
MP for New Plymouth
National Party Spokesperson: Energy & Resources
National Party Spokesperson: Arts, Culture & Heritage

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