OPINION: It's clear that the Ministry for Environment is underestimating the importance of properly consulting farmers on the Essential Freshwater proposals.
He says the Essential Freshwater Package announced today by Government provides a real opportunity for everyone to have their say in this important conversation.
“We know we can’t farm without healthy water and land, and we reflect this in our Dairy Tomorrow sector strategy, and we need to acknowledge the work that’s already taken place,” says Mackle.
“Our dairy sector is already on the journey to improve and protect water quality and our farmers have been working towards this for more than a decade.”
Mackle said at the same time it is acknowledged that, in some catchments, community expectations for water quality has not yet been met. Here, further action is required by all land users, including dairy, to halt a decline and longer-term solutions put in place to restore the health of these waterways.
“This policy package focuses not only on dairy but all land use activities, including sheep and beef, horticulture and urban activities, reflecting that we all have a part to play in improving our waterways.”
“We agree with a focus on ecosystem health and alongside this, options to better track the impact of improvements farmers are making to work towards this. However, we have serious concerns that the proposed approach of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus may not achieve improved ecosystem health and could have a significant impact on the viability of farm businesses and rural communities. We need to understand this better and what it means for our water quality, farmers and for the country.”
Overall DairyNZ supports the Essential Freshwater Package but Mackle points out that it hasn’t been involved in its development.
“So we need to understand the proposed policies in more detail.
“It is important the policies contribute to meaningful improvements in water quality for the community and there are realistic expectations for all landowners.
“We believe on-farm initiatives are already contributing to maintaining or improving water quality across many catchments and the most recent LAWA report supports this, with almost all water quality measures showing more sites improving, than not.”
For more information on the new Essential Freshwater Package proposal visit www.mfe.govt.nz