Wednesday, 11 April 2012 16:13

New rule will bring ‘poverty’

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Some Southland farmers will be “condemned to poverty” because of dairy conversions now requiring resource consent, says Southland’s Federated Farmers vice-president Russell McPherson.

Conversions will become a lot harder, he says, with some farms with the wrong type of soil being turned down under the new interim rule from Environment Southland which takes effect on April 14.

Some farmers may miss out on the opportunity to realise the full value of their land, he says, affecting the tradition of intergenerational farming in Southland.

He also believes it may bring a new era of intervention and, although existing dairy farms do not have to apply for resource consent, he fears it will “spill over” to when those farms need to apply for new consents.

McPherson leads a group of 90 farmers who last week attended the Environment Southland meeting that approved the new transitional policy. 

Farmers planning dairy conversions will need to apply for resource consent including providing a farm management plan, with soil assessment, a nutrient management plan and a winter grazing plan. The council says it will have the scope to decline consent if the risk to the environment is too great.

McPherson claims some aspects of the new rule are “great for dairy farmers who have already converted”. 

“They have already got the land with consents,” he told Dairy News. “We are already at the pinnacle of land use. We are generating the most income anyone can…

“What the Federation is saying – dairy farmers have grasped this – is that it’s the people who haven’t got the consent to milk or convert their farm who are going to miss out.

“For some reason sheep farmers have not woken up that this policy is going to affect sheep farmers and non-dairy farmers more harshly than dairy farmers.”

He says sheep farmers who want to convert but do not get consent will miss out collectively on “millions” in capital gain, affecting retirement and the ability to pass on the farm to the next generation.

 “Science is showing us that farmers are doing a very good job and our water quality is actually improving,” McPherson says

“In the last 10 years we have doubled our cow numbers yet our water quality is improving. Why, then, would you as a council want to steal from farmers their property rights?

“Basically the council wants to control people…. They think they know better.”

Dairy farmers must deal with Environment Southland on a regular basis and fear “this interim process will splash over into renewing consents.”

He says Fish and Game and DOC will have to get involved and farmers will have to “horse trade” to get consents.

Environment Southland chairman Ali Timms said the new rule will provide a valuable tool for anyone wanting to convert a property to establish the level of risk involved and its possible impact on the environment.
“It’s all about due diligence which is an important part of any land use change on a property.”

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