Federated Farmers call for 'major redo' of 'unwieldy beast' Resource Management Act

Federated Farmer president Andrew Hoggard.
Federated Farmer president Andrew Hoggard. Photo credit: File

Federated Farmers are calling for a "major redo" of the Resource Management Act (RMA), saying it stands in the way of the Government's own goals for the primary sector.

Earlier this week the industry group released its platform for the upcoming general election, saying a "sensible, practical and affordable approach" was needed in the wake of COVID-19.

On Thursday Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers president, said one major piece of legislation the Government needed to address was the RMA.

"There are some key ethics, or the key foundations, of it where it's about being effects-based, the need to balance economic, environmental, social, cultural wellbeing," Hoggard told Rural Today.

"We still think that's important, but beyond that we need a major redo of that legislation - it's become quite an unwieldy beast."

Earlier this month, the Government released its ambitious plan - called Fit For a Better World - aimed at boosting primary sector exports by $44 billion over the coming decade.

But Hoggard says that will be impossible if the RMA remains unchanged.

"They're banking on some big increases in aquaculture to help deliver that target and I just can't see with the RMA process as it is at the moment how any aquaculture business can get started," Hoggard said.

The Government's plan promised to accelerate the country's aquaculture strategy by improving regulatory settings and investment certainty, and invest in critical wharf and hatchery infrastructure.

Hoggard said it's not just aquaculture that is affected by the cumbersome RMA.

"It's having big impacts in terrestrial farming as well. If we look at the ability to actually create water storage it's a nightmare. 

"It takes too long - the process just doesn't work."

Hoggard said the issue of water storage was of key importance for the primary sector.

"If we're looking to increase our horticultural exports, they need water as well. Water storage doesn't mean more dairy cows [as] some people are worried about.

"To my mind, looking at water storage, if the effects can be managed, why wouldn't you do it."

Federated Farmers' platform presented an eight-point plan which, they believe, if implemented would enable a "prosperous agricultural sector and thriving rural communities".

Hoggard said now more than ever it was important for "good, sensible policy". 

"We don't just want to be blowing money left, right and centre right now that our grandkids are still going to have to be paying [it] back - it's got to be spending money on things that will make New Zealand better, to help us get through this period of the COVID impact but not just splashing money around."