Yesterday (Monday 7 September) the Minister for the Environment David Parker and Minister of Primary Industries Damien O’Connor met with council executives, farming and sector leaders and Fish and Game Southland.
The meetings focused on the new national regulations for freshwater and their implementation.
During the meeting, there was an agreement to form a local advisory group to be facilitated by Environment Southland, which would provide advice into the national implementation group established by Minister Parker last week.
Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said the meetings were very constructive and he looked forward to working with the ministers further as we worked through the new legislation.
“The farmers presented a number of areas where they have concerns and highlighted a number of possible solutions,” chairman Horrell said. “We’ll now take that enthusiasm and pull together a small working group to provide advice to the national implementation group.”
Farmer representative Tony Cleland was one of around 30 dairy, sheep, beef and deer farmers who initiated and attended the meeting, along with sector groups DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers.
“While the process has been challenging, the group has established a pragmatic way forward, thanks to collaborative input from farmers, industry groups, council and ministers,” said Mr Cleland. “We are encouraged that a local group of farmers will be involved in working with Environment Southland on the rule changes.
“The conversation was constructive and we will continue to work, as a group, on this issue as we seek solutions as a sector. We see the implementation groups and councils as key in the rollout of these regulations.”
Farmers discussed the new rules that required consent, particularly intensive winter grazing, sowing dates, and stock exclusion and urged the ministers to push forward with the audited farm environment plan requirement, which is yet to form part of the national legislation.
“The ministers acknowledged the progress we’ve already made here in Southland with farm plans, intensive winter grazing, our proposed Water and Land Plan and the extensive engagement we’ve done for the plan and more recently to gather community values,” chairman Horrell said.
“Everyone wants to ensure water quality is improved – including the 35 farming leaders who attended the meeting. They are an integral part of the change that’s needed to improve our environment and working together to get practical, Southland solutions to some of our challenges is something we’ve always done well down here.”