Fresh water policies better, but still some issues

Fresh water policies better, but still some issues

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The deer industry says the government’s freshwater policy decisions will give farmers more certainty about what they need to do on their farms to comply with the revised national freshwater quality standard and new regulations.

Deer Industry NZ chair Ian Walker says deer farmers have long supported the need for farm environment plans, so making them mandatory should not be a burden, so long as the proposed farm plans address actual environmental risks and auditing reflects deer farming knowledge and understanding of deer behaviours.

“We support the principle of higher freshwater standards, but we are very cautious about adding layers of bureaucracy and additional costs on deer farmers. Also there is very little expertise outside our industry about the most effective ways to minimise the impacts of deer on the environment.”

Walker says the government deserves credit for listening to farmer feedback on its freshwater discussion document and for withdrawing or amending some of its more extreme proposals. The stock waterway exclusion rules are now generally focussed on intensity of land use, which he says will be a relief for many hill country deer farmers running low-intensity operations.

“However, there will be issues for some beef and deer farmers who have low intensity grazing operations, particularly on tussock-covered flats in some the South Island high country. Also in some high rainfall regions, especially on the West Coast, where low-slope paddocks are criss-crossed with creeks,” he says.

“Fencing all streams in these situations is unaffordable, impractical and will have very little environmental benefit.”

Walker says most deer farms are on hill country, so in areas where winter forage cropping is practised, many will be required to apply for a resource consent for cropping paddocks that have a 10 degree or greater slope. The deer industry will be looking more closely at the implications of this when the government makes more information available.

“The deer industry has been a pioneer in good environmental practice and there is a good understanding within industry of how to minimise the impact of deer during winter feeding. 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.”

Walker welcomes the released summary document and looks forward to seeing the detail of the new National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

“As with all legislation, the devil will be in the detail. Our objectives are quite clear – to help the deer industry play its part along with all New Zealanders, in improving freshwater quality, while making sure that regulations achieve their desired purpose without imposing unnecessary costs or compliance hassles on farmers.”