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Farm plans must be practical and cost-effective for farmers

Wednesday 10th April 2024

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Federated Farmers are welcoming the Government’s announcement that the farm planning system will be overhauled as a positive and pragmatic step forward.

"Farmers support farm plans as a tool for improving environmental outcomes but they need to be practical and cost-effective," Federated Farmers freshwater spokesperson Colin Hurst says.

"The current system is incredibly frustrating, with a lot of unnecessary cost, complexity and duplication. There are huge opportunities for the Government to make improvements.

"We have been calling for urgent and significant changes to make the whole process simpler and more affordable for farmers for some time now, so it’s good to finally see some movement."

Fixing unworkable freshwater rules was one of Federated Farmers' 12 key policy changes for restoring farmer confidence during last year’s general election.

"It’s absolutely critical that the Government get this right," Hurst says.

"Farmers don’t want to see another expensive ‘box ticking’ exercise that will tie us up in endless red tape and arbitrary paperwork for very little environmental gain.

"Farm plans allow farmers and rural communities to tailor their environmental improvement actions to match their specific local needs."

Hurst says this will lead to much better outcomes, and more community buy-in, than impractical and expensive one-size-fits-all rules driven out of Wellington.

"At face value this is a really positive step forward for both farmers and the environment, but the devil is always going to be in the detail," Hurst says.

"It’s good to see the Government are talking about taking a risk-based approach, where the level of plan you need to put in place is determined by your specific catchment and farming activity.

"It’s also really encouraging that they’re looking at how existing sector or council farm plans could be recognised or integrated, because over 10,000 farmers already have a plan in place."

Hurst says this announcement will leave many farmers in a state of limbo wondering if they should get a freshwater farm plan under the current rules or wait for changes.

"The Government needs to address this uncertainty by extending timelines in regions that already have freshwater farm plan requirements in place," Hurst says.

"Councils have already started implementing freshwater farm plan rules, but it makes no sense to force farmers to comply when we know the rules are about to change."


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