Horizons' way forward a 'win-win'

Predictions that Horizons Regional Council's One Plan would cause "Farmergeddon" have been dispelled by a new report into the document's economic impact.

The Nimmo Bell Report, commissioned by DairyNZ, showed that the One Plan's contentious nutrient management limits would have a neutral economic impact on the Tararua area and coastal Rangitikei.

The report was in response to an impact assessment commissioned by LandCorp last year that predicted dire impacts from the One Plan on some farmers - impacts that Federated Farmers dubbed "Farmergeddon".

Horizons councillor for Tararua John Barrow said the regional council had come a long way since then and had eased farmers' concerns over what the plan would mean.

"We've got a plan that will work," Cr Barrow said. "It will keep the economy moving and it will achieve the environmental benefits that we're seeking."

Older versions of the plan included nutrient leaching targets that would have been impossible to meet unless there were "excessive" reductions in production, Cr Barrow said.

Horizons had worked with farmers and other concerned parties on an implementation plan that would reduce nutrient leaching into waterways while averting negative economic impacts. The approach was endorsed in the High Court's recent ruling on the One Plan.

At the time of its release, the LandCorp report was criticised for the methods used in its production.

DairyNZ's strategy and investment leader for sustainability, Rick Pridmore, said DairyNZ helped to fund the latest report because it was important to have "robust facts and figures based on actual farming data".

Mr Pridmore said farmers were concerned that if the One Plan required drastic cuts to their production there would be flow-on effects for the economy.

Horizons had found a way forward that was a "win-win", with farmers, the community and the environment all better off, he said.

The Tararua Community Economic Impact Society was formed by members of the Tararua community concerned about the potential economic consequences of the original nutrient management provisions.

Group spokesman, Dannevirke dairy farmer Russell Phillips, said there had been concerns that the impacts of the One Plan could have been "potentially devastating".

The regional council should have done more economic analysis earlier in the plan's development, he said.

"Working together cohesively provides the best opportunity to achieve the results we all need."

Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said he was pleased with the results of the report. "We have been listening to the community and have worked closely with them and industry leaders to set these provisions, as we are committed to economic growth in our region, while also being mindful of taking steps to improve our environment and in particular our water quality," he said.

"It is pleasing to receive this report and to see that the provisions we will be implementing will not have an adverse economic effect on the region."

Manawatu Standard