Thursday, 30 June 2016 12:19

Feds on board with Environment Commissioner's Report

Written by 
Federated Farmers Environment spokesman Chris Allen. Federated Farmers Environment spokesman Chris Allen.

Federated Farmers is on board with challenges laid down by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Federated Farmers Environment spokesman Chris Allen says he agrees with her assessment that the biggest issue facing New Zealand is climate change.

"The Commissioner has highlighted urban areas as key to reducing greenhouse gases, especially from transport. She calls for cities which are low carbon as well as affordable.

"Building resilience in our agriculture sector is also of great importance. We need to prepare for more extreme weather events - water storage projects are crucial to give farmers the reliable source of water required.

"In regards to water quality the Commissioner brings to the forefront that much environmental concern is reactive and subject to fashion. She emphasises State of the Environment reports must be built on a bedrock of scientific evidence. Under scrutiny the Environment Aotearoa Report 2015 did not always do this.

"Last year the report was released with a media headline that water quality is declining. That headline was not supported by the statistics in the report and the Ministry for the Environment was quick to correct it. We must adhere to the highest standards of rigour in our reporting so that we can move on from debating statistics, and get on with solutions.

"Natural forested areas will always have better water quality but unless we all go back to where we came from, we will never get back to the pre-human state that is currently used as a baseline.

"Federated Farmers agrees with the Commissioner that most issues are at a local level not at national scale. Environment Aotearoa statistics show the 80/20 game. Across the range of water quality attributes, most waterways show 80 percent to be improving or not going backwards. The other 20 percent make up the local hotspots where we must focus.

"There is much noise calling for swimmability of rivers. Farmers are keen for every man and their dog to be able to enjoy local swimming holes.

"The Commissioner rebukes the Ministry for the Environment on not including swimming data in the Environment Aotearoa report. She says even if the information is not perfect, we need to see it.

Federated Farmers strongly agrees. We cannot have a sensible national conversation about swimming without national data. More importantly this information is collected and understood at the local level and so decision-making needs to remain with local communities.

"The Commission has highlighted erosion as a concern. Federated Farmers agrees this is an important legacy issue. Gisborne is our national hotspot for sediment and we applaud the partnership programmes that are already underway with central government and Gisborne Council working alongside landowners to prioritise and address erosion hotspots.

"The Ministry for Primary Industries has recently beefed up investment to accelerate progress. We know from our experience in Gisborne there are no silver bullet solutions. Success will be found by working on the ground with local people and tailored solutions.

"The Commissioner has issued a rallying call that our native species are under sustained attack from predators. She commends Battle for the Birds but recommends we lift our sights from battles that hold the line to figuring out how to win the war. Federated Farmers is in total agreement.

"This won't be about just the Department of Conservation, it has to be a team game. Again, farmers are up for the challenge. Just remember what the "Farmy Army" and "Student Volunteer Army" together achieved in Christchurch," Allen said.

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