Tuesday, 06 October 2020 08:25

Changes just don’t add up

Written by  Staff Reporters
Jane Smith claims that despite Environment Minister David Parker establishing four advisory groups it appears that no economic analysis of the proposals was ever prepared. Jane Smith claims that despite Environment Minister David Parker establishing four advisory groups it appears that no economic analysis of the proposals was ever prepared.

Farmer Jane Smith claims that farmers find comments from David Parker, Damien O’Connor and the Green Party’s James Shaw nauseating.

Read: Critic calls for a major investigation into freshwater reforms.

“This is our licence to operate with our global trading partners and will attract added-value premiums,” she says.

“This lacks any metric or rationale,” says Smith. “We are creating our own hurdles at a rate higher than any other primary producer in the world. For every dollar spent on food worldwide, the farmer receives on average, less than 10 cents.”

This is a topic of discussion Smith often has with offshore peers around the Global Farmer Roundtable. 

Meanwhile, Smith believes the suggestion that farmers need a $50 million election handout to ‘transition to more sustainable farming practices’ is offensive and belittling – both to the farming sector and urban taxpayers who will have to pay for this.

“Any fool can see that the best long term strategy is to get the farming sector to fund their own good practice journey through a catchment-based approach – in their own time and at their own cost,” she says. 

“In our own modest sheep and beef operation, we have spent over $350,000 during the past 10 years on environmental initiatives including trees, fencing and proactive land exclusion simply because we want to.” 

“The inconvenient truth for Parker is that this is exactly what the farming sector is already undertaking, without a cent of burden on the taxpayer. However, this more practical timeframe does not fit into his aspirational goal of being anointed as New Zealand’s freshwater godfather.”

Smith adds that the Government’s own Treasury department recommended that MfE did not proceed with the Essential Fresh Water Regulations in their proposed form, due to the crippling effect on the economy.

“Common sense would suggest this should have been a catalyst for further scrutiny,” she says. “Urban taxpayers are going to have to underwrite this through a myriad of rate increases, while annual GDP falls by $6 billion by 2050.” 

She adds that despite Parker establishing four advisory groups: the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group (STAG), Kahui Wai Maori, the Regional Sector Water subgroup and the Freshwater Leaders’ Group – it appears that no economic analysis of the proposals was ever prepared.

“Notwithstanding that this was an underpinning theme in many of the 17,500 submissions.”

Smith claims a tough freshwater legacy appears to have driven the final policy.

“Proving that this country is being governed by emotion, opinion polls and leaders that want their photo on the cover of Time magazine,” she concludes. 

Conflicted?

Meanwhile, Jane Smith believes she has uncovered a serious conflict of interest issue, with animal rights activist Rowan Taylor – a MfE senior policy analyst for MfE leading the ministry’s submissions to influence plan changes at regional level. 

“I am appalled that an animal liberation, vegan who is publicly opposed to livestock farming is essentially being paid by the taxpayer to be an internal activist,” she says.

More like this

Groundswell of farmer angst

Environmentalist and North Otago farmer Jane Smith says her alliance with Groundswell NZ and the Rural Advocacy Network during a recent South Island tour is not some type of underground gangster movement.

Restoring our freshwater systems

OPINION: When I started writing this piece, I was sitting in my Kaiapoi office on a sweltering 30-degree summer’s day, and I could hear faint “plops” as youngsters pulled “phat manus” and “bombs” off the bridge into the Kaiapoi River as generations before them have done.

Do they know that the river is deemed “unsuitable” for swimming with E. coli levels of up to 2,420 per 100ml? This information is available on LAWA’s website, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) - Can I swim here? It makes for sobering reading. With levels this high, we should supply these youngsters with full PPE gear to wear over their shorts. The saddest fact is that this story is repeating itself from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

We are witnessing the systemic collapse of New Zealand’s freshwater systems as our environment can no longer handle the extreme pressure we have placed on it through decades of urban and rural intensification. We have taken too much from our environment and we must start giving back.

Change is coming with a renewed focus on healthy waterways through the National Policy for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), which the Government announced in August 2020, as well as Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (PC7), which progressed through submissions and a hearing in front of independent hearing commissioners last year.

I attended the PC7 hearing in December and it boosted my spirits to observe the passion our community has for improving Waimakariri’s waterways. I hope the changes that come out of PC7 will be bold and far reaching.

The concept of Te Mana o te Wai underpins the NPS-FM and places the highest value on the health of freshwater systems. This philosophy is the new basis for how we, as a society, interact with our environment. The NPS-FM creates a framework for change, but we must also change how we think as council bodies, as communities, as businesses, and as individuals about how our systems/practices must shift from productive growth mode to sustainability mode, and how we can live within an acceptable environmental footprint. On an individual level, we need to realise how, over the long term, that wet paddock or riverbed block would benefit the planet if it were left to revert to a wetland or a more natural state.

This year the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee will focus on priority areas and working with the community to improve our waterways.

We will support change through three newlyformed catchment groups – the Sefton Saltwater Creek Catchment Group, the Landcare Working Group, and the Biodiversity Group.

We are ahead of the curve in Waimakariri in terms of engaging with farmers, waterway conservation groups and the wider community, but we still have a long journey ahead to restore our rivers and streams.

We must work together in a united way to leave our land and water for future generations to inherit in a better state than when we found it.

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua - As man disappears from sight, the land remains.

Michael Blackwellis is chair of Waimakariri Water Zone Committee.

Water data at all times

A clever trough monitoring system from Australian supplier Farmbot, allows farmers to remotely monitor water supplies to stock, using a clever device aptly named the Wireless Trough Sensor.

Man-made ponds a success

Purpose-built ponds that provide a safe haven for whitebait are being hailed as a success by Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff, following the results of a recent overnight trapping operation.

Farmer input refines design

New Zealand farmers are having input into the development of a revolutionary irrigation prototype as its Feilding-based software engineers seek to refine its design.

National

Machinery & Products

Made in NZ... Hansen Products

Made in New Zealand looks at the wealth of design and manufacturing ability we have in this country, producing productive…

New models mark seventh decade

Celebrating its 70th year – and having already released the fifth generation A Series in January – Valtra has just…

Kubota's new autumn offerings

Kubota, which is gaining traction in the agricultural sector with an ever-broadening portfolio, has announced some additions for autumn.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Bad company

The Hound is among many in the agriculture sector, including many of our top scientists, who are somewhat cynical claims…

Quitters?

OPINION: This old mutt wonders what it is about tall, balding, ex-Fonterra executives and their (non) ability to handle life…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter