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Tuesday, 10 September 2019 10:55

Limits on irrigation, dairy conversions

Written by  Sudesh Kissun

Restrictions on new dairy conversions and irrigation are coming as the Government grapples with improving waterways around the country.

All farmers will be required to have a farm plan by 2025 to manage risks to freshwater on their properties. 

The proposals were outlined in a draft National Policy Statement and National Environment Standards: Freshwater paper released last week by Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

Public submissions will be accepted on the proposals until October. The Government will decide finally on the national policy statement by early next year.

“From June 2020, changes such as new irrigation or conversion to dairying will only happen where there is evidence it will not increase pollution,” the discussion document says.

Among other proposals, catchments with high nitrate/nitrogen levels will be required to reduce nitrogen loss within five years.

The Government also wants farmers to do more to exclude stock from waterways. It proposes more fencing and wider setbacks to keep stock out of waterways, reduce erosion and capture contaminants before they reach water. 

Standards will also be introduced for intensive winter grazing, feedlots and stock holding areas to reduce erosion and pollution of waterways by nutrients, sediment and pathogens.

The document talks about extra costs facing farmers- $600 million over 10 years for extra fencing and $3,500 for each farm plan. The Government has allocated $229m funding in the Budget for farmers.

Some farmer organisations are welcoming the proposals.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says every NZer wants clean lakes, rivers and streams. And fruit and vegetable growers are no exception, he says.

IrrigationNZ says it is pleased to see the Government’s freshwater proposals do not pin blame for waterway degradation solely on the primary sector.

But sheep and beef farmers have significant concerns.

Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ) says plans to lock down current land uses will disproportionately affect the majority of sheep and beef farms which are low input, extensive systems with a light touch on the environment.

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