Farmers told to talk through differences

TONY BENNY
Last updated 06:10 03/04/2014
Environment Canterbury boss Dame Margaret Bazley.
Fairfax NZ
FRONTING UP: Environment Canterbury boss Dame Margaret Bazley addressed farmers in the Mackenzie Country at a recent field day about the recently notified Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

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Environment Canterbury boss Dame Margaret Bazley says she is committed to working with farmers to resolve issues with the recently notified Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

"I think if you don't get any other message from me, just know that we at ECan are absolutely committed to working with you to get a solution to these things," she told high country farmers at a Federated Farmers field day in the Mackenzie Country.

She said the Government's national policy statement for freshwater required all regional councils to set water quality limits and to have a process and timeframe to achieve that.

"That is something we have no control over, we have to do it and I think it's important that everyone understands - that is not negotiable.

"We know, as you do, that the current situation cannot continue and we've been given the opportunity to sort something out to go forward and we'll get something that works and I'm certainly determined that we get the very best systems in place in the time we're commissioners."

Bazley said farmers should sit down with environmental and recreational groups and try to resolve their differences. "Otherwise you'll be forever in the hands of courts and the issues you're talking about today are just going to continue.

"We've worked very closely with Ngai Tahu and we're finding that ... they used to use the courts as the main means of progressing their issues and they're not doing that to anywhere near the same extent now that we sit around the table and work things out."

ECan commissioners are trying to attend every meeting of farmers to explain what is happening with the plan and also spend a lot of time talking to Forest & Bird, Fish & Game and other environmental and recreational groups.

"We've got farmers who are wanting to grow agriculture, we've got concerns for the economy of our country and still feeding the world virtually, and then on the other side we've got the environmentalists. We've got to bridge that gap."

The Land and Water Regional Plan was bringing tremendous changes, Bazley said, and farmers' need to reconsider their environmental footprint would have an impact on their business.

"We're not telling you how to run your businesses or what you can do to your land but you must comply with the rules in terms of what comes off your land. There'll be management as well as environmental benefits if you do."

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"I've managed change most of my career and this change is no different from any other change - it's a big change and we have to recognise that and work out how we can work together to get our way through it."

High country farmers have specific concerns about the practicality of fencing all sensitive waterways to exclude stock, as required under the plan. Bazley said Ecan was keen to talk to them about that.

"We're quite clear that we can't impose things that are absolutely impossible and in the high country you're in a different situation than the low lands."

- Straight Furrow

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