New freshwater laws to bring 'significant and unnecessary costs' for all Kiwis - Federated Farmers

Newly passed freshwater legislation will end up being costly for all New Zealanders not just rural communities, Federated Farmers claims. 

The new laws, signed off last week, introduced a new national policy statement, a national environmental standard and stock exclusion regulations that prohibit the access of cattle, pigs and deer to freshwater. 

Chris Allen, Federated Farmers water spokesperson, said the legislation was a "complicated beast" covering a multitude of separate yet overlapping issues.

Despite being aimed at farmers, Allen claimed the new laws would create "significant and unnecessary costs" for ratepayers across the country.

"This is going to be a cost for every New Zealander," he told Dominic George on Magic Talk's Rural Today on Tuesday.

"And I'm not saying that in an alarmist way, because farmers are covered by the rules but urban [areas] are also covered by the rules - so every regional council will be having to put new plans in place even if you've got a current land and water plan."

Environment Minister David Parker announced the new rules being in place on August 5.

"These regulations deliver on the Government's commitment to stop further degradation, show material improvements within five years and restore our waterways to health within a generation," Parker said.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the rules and stimulus funding will deliver jobs and environmental benefits, acknowledging the "huge amount of work" Kiwi farmers have already done to improve their practices over the last 20 years.

But Allen said the new rules come after millions of dollars have already been spent creating plans that would now need to be changed.

"We've spent millions over the last few years - whether it be some councils and industry or green NGOs or whoever - discussing the plans, appealing the plans, getting to the point where they're workable and, in the case of Canterbury, actually starting to implement their plans.

"All this stuff's been done, the whole discussion's been reset - you can almost throw a large amount of that work out while they have to go through these new planning processes. And it's all going to be happening at the same time."

Allen said Federated Farmers had particular concerns around the wording of the national policy statement. 

"There is the distinct possibility of facing costly legal action as councils work out how to implement the regulations without established case law to assist in translating these directions."

District or city councils with stormwater consent coming up for renewal would most likely be "panicking big time" in the face of the new legislation, Allen said.  

"A huge amount of money is going to go just into the planning process and we haven't even started implementing any actions on the ground."

With the new rules now law, Allen said the only way to reverse any of the decisions is "for the Government to sit down and say 'we got something wrong and we're prepared to change it'".

"Going to the courts is not going to change anything so it's time to have some serious discussions."