DairyNZ head consulting officer in the South Island, Tony Finch, says his first priority has been to get an accurate assessment of the extent of the damage on farms affected by the floods.
The Southland Advisory Group was formed after concern from farmers and sector organisations that a number of new winter grazing rules were impractical, challenging to meet and costly for councils to implement.
The rules are part of the Government’s National Environmental Standard for Freshwater.
“While we support the intent of the Government’s regulations, which is to protect the environment, the rules need to be fair, reasonable and achievable,” said DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr David Burger.
“We are pleased to have worked with farmers and sector organisations to develop clear and practical recommendations for on-farm wintering actions which will lead to better outcomes for the environment and local communities.”
The advisory group, made up of two farmer representatives and representatives from DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb New Zealand, Environment Southland, Federated Farmers and Fish & Game, was formed after farmers expressed their concerns about the regulations, wanting fair and pragmatic solutions.
“This collaborative approach is the way forward for developing regional council plans as the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater takes effect over the next few years,” says Burger.
“We know farmers have made significant strides in improving their wintering planning and care for the environment and animals, and acknowledge there’s more to do – we are on the journey.”
The group is unanimous in its recommendations, which were presented last month to Minister for the Environment David Parker and Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor.
Taking onboard the areas of concern from farmers, DairyNZ and the other advisory group members have recommended to the Government these changes be made: The group agrees that farm plans are the future for managing freshwater and whilst these are developed and rolled out, the group recommends work commence immediately on a step that can be used in the interim – an Intensive Winter Grazing module. This would enable farmers to identify the specific risks on their property and identify the good management practices they implement to mitigate the impacts on freshwater.
The pugging and resowing date conditions should be removed. The group have also recommended a new measure which focuses on the management of critical source areas. Pugging and resowing rules would lead to perverse outcomes, but managing critical source areas would lead to improved environmental health. The recommendation suggests these areas are protected within intensively grazed areas via buffers.
Until the Government has considered the recommendations and implemented any changes, farmers will still need to plan to meet freshwater requirements.