Education, not regulation, is the key to good environmental outcomes, Southland farmers say.
They want Environment Southland to establish best-practice guidelines around hill and high country development instead of enforcing rules on them.
"I don't like rules," Lumsden farmer Willie Menlove said.
"I've farmed for more than 20 years without these sorts of rules and I'd prefer education to be the end goal."
He isn't alone.
Most of the farmers who attended a field day on his Northern Southland property this week believed education was the key to reducing sediment run-off and improving water quality as part of Environment Southland's Water and Land 2020 & Beyond project.
Under the proposal, farmers will require a resource consent if they are developing land more than 700 metres above sea level, and if development takes place within 20 metres of permanently flowing water or within five metres of a gully.
They will also need a consent to establish fodder crops, including both winter and summer brassicas, on slopes greater than 20 degrees.
The Hill and High Country Management Area is considered to be land over 200 metres in elevation on land classes 5 to 8 (land not suitable for arable cultivation).
Environment Southland senior land sustainability officer Gary Morgan said 20 degrees was regarded as "moderately steep" and the safe limit for a wheel tractor.
However, he knew of some farmers who were using big tractors on much steeper ground.
"They've got stock on, and every bit of green grass is important to them, and they are going down into the gullies and this is creating sediment issues," Morgan said.
Lumsden farmer Simon Saunders questioned why the council needed to implement a consent process.
"Are we not better to focus on creating good buffer zones and let farmers get on and make good decisions themselves?" Saunders asked.
The Menlove's hill country property was used as an example of how good buffer zones had been created around gullies.
Saunders said the Council should stop focusing on its 20-degree rule because it was creating confusion and it would be difficult to enforce, particularly if parts of paddock were steeper.
Blackmount farmer Richard Slee said the council should create best-practice guidelines around hill and high-country development in the form of a pamphlet for farmers.
"If we can get away from the consenting process, and the cost, it will be very beneficial," Slee said.
The council was expected to make a decision on the process at a meeting on October 1.
- The Southland Times