Despite claims by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that a new report will be the plan “to revitalise New Zealand’s strong wool sector…” there’s widespread belief it will do no such thing.
He agrees this has been correctly interpreted as a call for reducing cow numbers in these regions. He says cow stocking rates may have to drop in some areas and farmers would not be compensated were this to happen.
“You don’t compensate people [for stopping] polluting,” he says.
Parker says farmers who pollute waterways damage New Zealand’s brand image and cause problems for companies trying to sell our high value food exports.
He says high value products rely heavily on the NZ brand ‘clean and green’ and if buyers perceive this isn’t strictly true it damages the overall brand and can make it harder for exporters.
“By and large, the vast majority of farmers do get the sustainability message. They have done a lot of work in improving effluent control and have taken other mitigation steps around the whole milking platform.
“I am not opposed to dairying as such, but it’s pretty clear that the additional loads of sediment and nutrients in waterways are due to the intensity of farming and dairying is a key factor.”
Parker reckons science and technology, which he says NZ is good at, hold the key to land use change.
He believes this can result in a transformational change. He claims some parts of South Canterbury will move over time from dairying to cropping and horticulture, which will be “wonderful for the country”.
However, National Party leader Simon Bridges has described Parker’s plans to cap dairy herds as ill thought-out political grandstanding.
“David’s Parker’s announcement that the Ardern-Peters Government plans to regulate to reduce the number of cattle that farmers are allowed per hectare is another example of their unchecked assault on the regions. There’s been no analysis, no consultation and they have no plan,” he says.
“We all agree water and environmental improvements need to be made, but they need to be achieved through implementing a considered plan that all parties can work through over time.”
Bridges says the National Government set specific national limits on nitrates, phosphorous, E.coli, algae and ammonia through the National Policy Statement it put in place in 2014 and 2017.
“This put limits on dairy conversions in sensitive catchments and is progressively being rolled out by regional councils,” he says.
Bridges says National also agreed with farmers on fencing 56,000km of waterways over 12 years to come into effect in December 2017, which he claims the new Government has not progressed.
“Solving water quality issues is a team effort for urban and rural communities and is not something to be imposed solely on farmers, who’ve massively spent and worked out solutions to help improve the way they operate,” he says.
“[The new Government] seems to lack any sort of comprehension that when the farmers sneeze, we all catch a cold. Whether we’re in rural or urban areas, we’re all in this together.”