Councils told to be collaborative on water, land issues

Last updated 14:17 26/02/2014

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Councils need to make farming and urban communities front and centre of the development of land and water plans and avoid shortcuts, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink says.

The result of a legal challenge about the Environment Court's version of Horizon Regional Council's One Plan for the Manawatu-Wanganui region was a community effort, Leferink said today in a speech to the federation's dairy council in Wellington.

The legal outcome proved the old saying of "losing a battle to win the war". Independent research confirmed every fear HortNZ and Federated Farmers had had about the Environment Court's version of One Plan, he said.

"We can give thanks that Horizons councillors and senior managers also came to realise there were fundamental issues with the Environment Court version," Leferink said.

"They used the time our joint legal action created to act and which the High Court then subsequently endorsed.

"This was a true community effort so our thanks also go to the help local businesses, farmers and DairyNZ gave in saving jobs, businesses and farms."

The result would do more for the environment and was a joint win, but should not have taken so many years to get through, Leferink said.

"That's one region down and we have other water plans like that in Canterbury.

"My advice to councils is not to predetermine the outcome, but to genuinely use the collaborative process.

"There is no shortcut to an enduring solution which works. It is not about putting in place what council staff thinks the community needs, but it is what an informed community wants.

"It needs to be informed by the peer-reviewed science in combination with local expert knowledge."

Federated Farmers was not scared of fighting the farmer's corner for what was right, Leferink said.

Issues around water, the environment and taxes would feature prominently this election year, he said.

The federation would continue to drive for modern water storage, particularly as the rain stayed away and soil moisture deficits increased.

"As [Primary Industries] Minister [Nathan] Guy says, 'we don't have a water shortage issue just a water storage issue'. You cannot have a land of milk and honey without water, so let us go from here to challenge misconceptions and prove to our fellow Kiwi, just how responsible we are in managing it."

Dairying is in a healthy state with the Ministry for Primary Industries' outlook released two weeks ago indicating dairy exports will increase $2.7 billion over projections at the start of the 2013/14 season to $16.9b.

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Leferink said this meant every New Zealander had a stake in the success of the industry, even those who would turn "bright red" at the thought.

"The ministry projects this 2013/14 season will see our total primary exports hit $36.4b, with dairying representing an impressive 45 per cent of that total.

"More remarkably, that $36.4b in exports will come from the sheer hard work and determination of fewer than 150,000 people, who work in agriculture, forestry and fishing."

New Zealand would run out of suitable dairying land one day, but not until beyond the medium term. Dairying had the technology to benefit production, the environment and animal welfare equally and banking services that understood dairying, he said.

- (Live Matches)

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