Deer farmers say water rules need to be applied sensibly

Deer farmers say water rules need to be applied sensibly

Friday, August 7, 2020

The deer farming industry says it is hoping the health of waterways, rather than arbitrary rules, will drive the way councils enforce the government’s new freshwater regulations.

The National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-FW), stock exclusion regulations, and regulations in the measurement and reporting of water takes are now law.

“We appreciate the fact that the government has refined some of its Essential Freshwater proposals in response to feedback from farmers and others,” says Deer Industry NZ chief executive Innes Moffat.

“However there are requirements within the regulations which, if they are applied in all situations as they are worded, will be extremely costly for many farmers and achieve little environmental benefit.

“We are particularly concerned about those deer farmers who run low intensity operations with a very low environmental impact. Any new policies and rules applying to them need to achieve the goal of water quality improvement at least cost and with minimum bureaucracy, while reflecting the minimal  risk these operations pose to water quality.”

Moffat says expecting these farmers to comply, for example, with the same stock exclusion rules as an intensive finishing farm just because both farms are on the flat, would be a waste of time and money. He says it would be far better to focus on actions that will give the biggest water quality benefits, at least cost.

“Having met recently with the minister for agriculture, Damien O’Connor, we are hopeful that the government recognises our good faith and commitment to improved water quality”

Moffat says the deer farming industry has been actively promoting good environmental management for more than 20 years. This was reflected in a recent biennial Survey of Rural Decision Makers, run by scientists at Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research. This showed that more deer farmers have active environmental plans than any other category of farmer.

“We are also into year 3 of a five year study into the impact of deer on water quality in hill and high country grazing situations, so we will have good data to further refine decision-making.

“So when we say that the deer industry is willing to play its part along with all New Zealanders in improving freshwater quality, these are not empty words. We do so in the knowledge of the very big investment our farmers have been making over many years.

“And we will continue to support our farmers to develop and action their farm plans, identify major environmental risks and adopt the most appropriate mitigations for their particular circumstances.”

The new regulations put controls on winter grazing and feedlots, require farmers to have enforceable farm environment plans, set stricter controls on nitrogen pollution, new bottom lines for other measures of waterway health, set higher health standards at swimming spots in rivers and require councils to clean-up urban streams.

Some of the new rules will take immediate effect (from 3 September), while there is a longer timeframe for others. The gazette notice is here:  www.gazette.govt.nz/notice/id/2020-go3443

For information on how the new regulations will affect deer and other drystock farmers, go here:  www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/fresh-water/action-healthy-waterways-information-sheep-beef-and-deer-farmers