A farming leader has warned vibrant rural communities could disappear across New Zealand as regional councils increase farming regulations.
Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis cited new nitrogen limits like in Lake Rotorua, which he said hurts dairy farming profitability and limits land use to only trees.
He argued that if a farm is forced to convert to pine trees, there will be very little to do between planting and harvesting some 25 years later.
"Apart from that in-between times, you don't need any labour and you don't need any of the locals," he told RadioLIVE's Rural Exchange.
"The local communities do go backwards because there's been no money spent and there's no one living there."
Canterbury farms will require land use consent under new laws from Environment Canterbury to protect and improve water quality, which is expected to affect nearly half of all local farms.
Mr Lewis warned there will be "unintended consequences" to such regulations, and wants regional councils to establish rules that don't hurt a farm's ability to profit.