Wellington, September 18, 2019
Water is a critical strategic asset and a source of recreation in New Zealand, and we all know that it must be abundant, healthy, clean and cost effective.
While we encourage the constant improvement of our waterways, the recent proposals from the Government on Freshwater are short-sighted, and destined to have perverse effects on our primary sector and wider economy.
These wide-ranging proposals will limit the flexibility of New Zealand farmers to adjust to market conditions and change their land use.
The effects of this would be far reaching and could restrict farmers from innovating, which is one of New Zealand’s key advantages.
This means that farmers looking to be on the cutting edge of the market and transition to new crops will be hamstrung and unable to make these transitions.
Marlborough once used to be covered in arable crops, sheep and cattle, but due to New Zealand’s flexible land use farmers were able to convert to grapes as they saw market opportunities present themselves.
Now Marlborough is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc.
The Government’s proposals will severely limit farmers’ abilities to make these changes, and ultimately our primary sector and economy will suffer as a result.
The only conversions being supported by this document is the planting of more trees.
Modelling in the document suggested that 68% of drystock farms in the Waikato/Waipa area would be converted into forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations.
This is heaping pressures onto a sector that is already at historically low levels of confidence. Despite the mounting pressure in the rural world, the Government has failed to even analyse how much these regulations will cost farmers and the wider economy.
Once again, this Government appears content to treat our farmers like New Zealand’s cash cows and have little regard for their own wellbeing. This document piles more uncertainty onto the sector and many will be struggling to see a way forward.
National Policy Statement
National established a comprehensive National Policy Statement while in Government and worked alongside our primary sector to clean our waterways, which have been steadily improving, as shown by the Government’s own data from Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA).
This analysis of national river quality trends from 2008 to 2017 showed that for eight out of the nine water quality indicators reported on, more monitored sites were improving than degrading.
A large part of this consistent increase in quality is the huge amount of work farmers have already done to improve water quality.
We signed an accord with the dairy industry that has seen farmers fence off 98% of their waterways, a distance of Auckland to Chicago and back, alongside spending over $1 billion in environmental investment over the last five years. This is a major achievement from our farmers but not a story (Environment Minister) David Parker wants to tell.
It is outrageous that the Government seems hell-bent on putting more and more shackles on the sector that produces 60% of our exports and is the backbone of our economy.
If we want first world healthcare, transport and education, we have to sell something to the world to afford to buy our first world affluence.
This means we should be encouraging sustainable growth for our industry, not stifling it with regulations in the name of political ideology.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar is Member of Parliament on National List for Mt Roskill in Auckland.