Tuesday, 24 September 2019 07:55

Parker won’t budge on freshwater

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Environment Minister David Parker. Environment Minister David Parker.

Environment Minister David Parker is ruling out giving farmers any longer to make submissions on freshwater reforms.

He told Rural News that two months is enough for farmers to make submissions.

“We think people can submit within that time. Two months is not too much of a rush,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Government agreed to extra time for submissions -- two weeks beyond the October 17 closing date first set for the consultation period.

This followed requests from DairyNZ and Federated Farmers, whose president Katie Milne also wrote to the Prime Minister seeking a three-month extension.

Parker says a six-week consultation is the normal period for parliamentary select committees. He says feedback from his officials suggests the NZ-wide meetings are “progressing well”.

People have been “polite” but some were wound up by Federated Farmers’ claims that the freshwater reforms could signal the end of pastoral farming, Parker claims.

“It’s not surprising that those incendiary comments had some people worried, but discussions have been polite,” he said. “It’s just not correct. Federated Farmers are wrong.”

The reforms include interim controls on land intensification and dairy conversions, until councils have plans in place by 2025 through a new National Environmental Standard.

Parker doesn’t expect too much pushback against this as “it’s in no one’s interest that this problem gets worse before it gets better”.

“Because if it’s allowed to get worse through increased intensification that puts more burden on all the incumbents to clean up in the future. My sense is there isn’t much controversy over holding the line.”

He believes there will be greater concerns about nitrogen attributes. “We haven’t quite landed on the nitrogen attribute yet.”

Parker says he plans to attend a public consultation but he hasn’t decided which one.

Opening the WaterNZ Conference in Hamilton last week, he expressed confidence that NZ will meet the challenges of improving its waterways.

And he said the work should begin without delay.

“We need to start taking action now. We really can’t sit on our hands while water quality continues to deteriorate in many rivers and lakes.

“The longer we wait, the higher the cost of fixing it will be.”

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