OPINION: It will be interesting to see if the Government, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claimed on election night would govern for every New Zealander, will make much needed changes to its freshwater rules after recent feedback.
With the Greens roped into a cooperation agreement by Jacinda Ardern and handed two portfolios, including Climate Change for co-leader James Shaw, farmers should be under no illusion that there will be any let-up on the state’s crusade on clean waterways and farm greenhouse gas emissions.
While thankfully the Greens radical ideologies, like reducing cow numbers and phasing out the use of synthetic nitrogen, are off the table, David Parker has retained the Environment portfolio, much to the dismay of many farmers.
Federated Farmers expects there will be little difference to what occurred during the past three years – two major pieces of legislation relating to healthy waterway and Zero Carbon both creating challenges for farmers.
Farmers will be watching closely how Parker uses his party’s absolute majority to make more draconian changes to this legislation.
The Labour Party’s policies on freshwater management are established and some have already come into effect. There are new limits on farm practices deemed higher-risk, such as winter grazing and feed lots, and interim limits on agricultural intensification.
A national cap on the use of synthetic fertiliser will also be imposed, to be reviewed in three years.
Labour also introduced new rules for intensive winter grazing that came into effect in early September. These included not allowing winter grazing on sloped land with more than a 10-degree angle, and limits on the depth of pugged soil. It also gave a deadline of November 1 to farmers for sowing winter crops.
If farmers couldn’t comply, resource consent would be required. The Government then walked back on some parts of the regulations after admitting they were impractical. Pugging around stock troughs became exempt, and the definition was amended.
Farmers would be hoping that the Greens’ influence on Ardern’s Government would be minimal.
The Greens are not expected to let up on their flawed campaign for clean waterways and the environment. Parker has proven that he is happy to sing from the same song sheet as the Greens.
But one would hope that the large number of Labour electorate MPs from rural constituencies would go into bat for farmers. Here’s hoping.