Environment Southland (ES) and Federated Farmers Southland are locked in a dispute over the release of draft limits and targets for nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and E. coli load reductions in the region's rivers, lakes and estuaries.
"The fund to retire farmland would be perhaps better interpreted as a policy to create on-farm wetlands," says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson.
"After talking with the team at DairyNZ we've arrived at a very different conclusion to that other groups have come up with.
"Instead of looking at this as a linear purchase of land, or trying to recreate MAF's old farm advisory division, think more along the lines of NIWA's guidelines for constructed wetlands.
"A fund $10 million a year could purchase at least 286ha. Using NIWA guidelines and if turned into strategically located wetlands, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers believe it could remove 60-70% of Nitrogen from around 9,500ha of farmland.:
"We can easily take people through the calculations but if applied to suitable sensitive catchments then you are potentially looking at a major gain for a relatively modest loss of farmland.
Mackenzie says they are not pretending this is a silver bullet, or is applicable to every part of New Zealand, but it does highlight how creative solutions are possible.
"There is also a mechanism to provide a legal home for any wetlands created; QEII National Trust covenants. Meanwhile, the Landcare Trust can bring together all parties in constructing and managing wetland buffer zones.
"It is notable that Federated Farmers played a leading role in forming both Trusts.
"Since this policy is still in formulation, the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust in cooperation with the Landcare Trust, may be good bodies to administer the fund. They are already there, they are excellent at what they do and both have regional advisors in place working with councils and landowners.
"Who better than the QEII National Trust supported by the Landcare Trust," Mackenzie says.