Thursday, 26 August 2021 07:55

Editorial: Upton was right

Written by  Staff Reporters
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton.

OPINION: The infallibility of Overseer – the tool farmers have been required to use to measure nutrient loss – has come crashing down following a report by a special science advisory panel.

The panel managed to get access to the base data that supports this software model, which is owned jointly by MPI, AgResearch and the Fertiliser Association of NZ.

For a long time, farmers and many others have been questioning the veracity of Overseer. Horticulturalists in particular have pleaded with councils and the courts that the tool does not suit their needs. Their pleas have been ignored.

Credit must go to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, who in 2018 conducted his own review into Overseer. He didn’t have the benefit of the data the science advisory panel had this time, but clearly saw the weaknesses in Overseer and drew it to the attention of the Government and the public.

There is no doubt that Overseer is a useful tool, but clearly its scientific value has been over-estimated by all and sundry. The company which owns it says Overseer still says it is doing what it is designed to do. The answer to that is probably yes – it helps some farmers estimate nutrient loss – but to use it as a legal tool is a bridge too far.

Farmers rightly argue that they have spent millions of dollars trying to stop Overseer being used as a regulatory tool and have got nowhere. They should rightly feel aggrieved.

But the problems don’t end there. What are the alternatives? Will an upgraded Overseer be ready in time to legally monitor the essential freshwater reforms? Will the Government revert to putting in rules such as the EU has, which are input rather than outcome-based?

The report, which is excellent, has now just added to the uncertainty that farmers and councils face in trying to implement all the changes in the pipeline.

Will we see legal challenges to Horizons’ One Plan and how will the courts now deal with future plans? It seems that, for the moment at least, Overseer’s days as a regulatory tool are over.

Thank you Simon Upton for your persistence!

More like this

Aiming to demystify Overseer

A Southland independent farm consultant, Mo Topham, says ‘demystifying’ OverseerFM for farmers is key to its successful use.

More crops now modelled

Farmers and growers can now model a greater range of crops in the farm management software tool OverseerFM.

Overseer's demise not good

OPINION: There is an adage from the old labour union days which states: It is a poor job that cannot carry a supervisor.


Time's up

Chris Lewis, a Feds national board member and spokesman on immigration and labour issues for the past two years, will…

Give farmers a chance!

Outgoing Federated Farmers leader Chris Lewis believes successive governments have failed to give farmers the chance to resolve key issues…

NZ ploughmen Ireland bound

Two veteran NZ ploughmen have won themselves a trip to the World Ploughing Championships which is being held in Ireland…

Machinery & Products

A new approach to apprenticeships

By taking a new approach to its apprenticeship programme, agricultural equipment supplier Norwood says it is ensuring farmers’ machinery will…

Buck-Rake does the job

With many self-propelled forage harvester manufacturers offering machines hitting 1000hp, the bottleneck in any harvesting system is always likely to…

Pigtail standards made to last

Feedback from farmers highlighted frustration at the time and cost involved in frequently replacing failed pigtail posts.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Yeah, right!

OPINION: Your old mate reckons recent ‘research’ carried out by consultants PWC – claiming that ‘actively managed carbon forestry’ creates…

All Claas!

OPINION: Your canine crusader - like many in the sector probably would have - raised an eyebrow when he heard…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter