Farmers call for an extension to freshwater consultation

There are growing calls in the farming sector for the Government to extend the consultation timeframe for its proposed Essential Freshwater strategy.

The proposal seeks to stop further degradation and reverse past damage of New Zealand's freshwater resources.

The package includes three proposed management documents - a replacement National Policy Statement for Freshwater (NPS), proposed National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES) and draft Regulations for stock exclusion from waterways.

A series of public meetings are underway to discuss the proposals and written submissions are also being taken.

However there is criticism from farming industry groups that the six-week consultation period isn't long enough, and that some farmers are missing out on meetings because of larger than expected numbers.

Dr Tim Mackle said more time was needed to allow farmers time to digest the proposal.
Dr Tim Mackle said more time was needed to allow farmers time to digest the proposal. Photo credit: Supplied

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle is among those who want the timeframe to be extended.

"Farmers need more time to consider the Government's proposal and to carefully weigh up the impact it may have on their farms, families and communities," he said.

"Essential Freshwater will significantly impact the way we farm in New Zealand. If this process is to have any integrity the Minister must extend the consultation period to allow farmers time to digest the proposal and engage in a meaningful way," said Dr Mackle.

Mackle said the huge numbers of farmers showing up at the small number of public meetings illustrated the interest and anxiety of the rural sector at the moment. 

"We are seeing public meetings where the Ministry for the Environment has set up 200 chairs and had more than double that number show up."

Federated Farmers president, Katie Milne also wants the consultation period extended.

"Yes, we have a bunch of policy people here at Feds who can, and are, working through this massive process at double-quick time for our members, but our farmers still need to have time to be part of this," she said.

"This is not us stalling for time. Normally consultation on something of this significance would be given six months, not six weeks. You have to give the people time to engage," said Milne.

But Minister for the Environment David Parker told Parliament that no changes were being considered.

"The six-week consultation period is similar to the consultation period that we use for submissions to select committees, so we're not proposing to extend that date," he said in response to a question from National's Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller.

Environment Minister David Parker told Parliament there were no plans to extend the consultation period.
Environment Minister David Parker told Parliament there were no plans to extend the consultation period. Photo credit: Newshub

"However, we have said, as select committees normally do, that if people are a bit late with their submissions, we will still receive them, " Parker said.

He also addressed concerns that 150 people were forced to sit outside a meeting in Winton.

"After the strong interest that was shown at meetings where everyone was able to be accommodated, there was an awareness amongst officials that there may not be sufficient space in the hall to which the member refers. 

"A Facebook message was put out to locals last night noting that, offering to hold two meetings, and suggesting that they spread across that other meeting date. Officials will go back to meet that need."

The deadline for submissions on the proposals is 5pm on Thursday, 17 October.

Newshub.

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