Deer farmers building two-way understanding

Deer farmers building two-way understanding

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Deer farming has a long history of striving for better environmental stewardship, but as a small industry, it has needed to take a hands-on approach to getting its message across to regional councils and government officials.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) environmental stewardship manager Lindsay Fung said DINZ and the NZ Deer Farmers Association decided that the best way to communicate was through ‘deer 101’ farm visits for officials and by running training days for regional council auditors.

“Most policy makers and regulators don’t understand farm systems and what drives profitability. Nor do they know what impacts deer have on soil and water, or the methods farmers have developed to mitigate these. So it is up to the industry to educate them. When we’ve done that we’ve got some real cut-through. Our farmers should be proud of what they’re doing. We have a good story to tell.”

The deer industry has a guiding principle of ‘doing the right thing’ by people, animals and the environment.

“But doing the right thing is not enough. We have to make sure that this is recognised by those writing the rules,” Fung says. “Once they understand that, we are more likely to convince them that to do the right thing we need rules that are reasonable and practical.”

Canterbury remains a concern. “The numerous plan changes for sub-regions in Canterbury are quite challenging.” There are still concerns for Otago, because of a major regional plan review and Southland, where nutrient limits are still to be introduced.

Jeska McHugh (ECan Senior Environmental Initiative Adviser), Ian Brown (ECan Principal Land Management Adviser), Stu Stokes, Janet Gregory (NZ Landcare Trust) and Sylvia McAslan, ECan Land Management Adviser) following an environmental auditors’ training day on Julie and Stu Stokes North Canterbury farm in March last year

DINZ and the NZDFA are actively involved in catchment workshops, regional council auditor training and relationship building in Waikato, Canterbury and Southland. Similar activities are planned for Horizons, Marlborough and Tasman.

In Southland, the involvement of Environment Southland staff in the activities of the Southland Environment Advance Party had been particularly helpful in building two-way understandings.

While the industry has made good progress with getting workable environmental regulation in most regions, central government policy was still presenting challenges in three areas: freshwater management, indigenous biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.

“A key objective for the industry is to ensure the deer industry plays its part along with all New Zealanders. At the same time need to make sure that regulations achieve their purpose without imposing unnecessary costs or compliance hassles for busy farmers.”

He noted there had been some success with upcoming freshwater management regulations, including the lack of stock exclusion (mostly) on land over 10 degree slope, and no grand parenting for high polluters.

Some issues remained, though, including stock exclusion in flat areas where the impact of deer is minimal such as on parts of the West Coast and in the South Island high country. Resource consent requirements for winter grazing on slopes over 10 degrees are also a major concern.

“Reducing or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions will be our biggest challenge over the next five years.  This is because we know that farmers will be facing a charge for emissions from livestock and the default position, as part of legislation, is that farmers will enter the ETS in 2025.

“By the end of 2022, as part of the He Waka Eke Noa partnership between the Government, Maori and industry, all farms need to know their emissions and have a plan in place to manage these emissions by the start of 2025.”

By participating in one of the Deer Industry Environment Groups set up by DINZ, deer farmers have a head-start in working out how the various environmental policy changes might affect them, he said.