'Cohesive plan': Labour promises to help farmers with compliance costs, environmental transition

Jacinda Ardern in the Waikato on Wednesday.
Jacinda Ardern in the Waikato on Wednesday. Photo credit: Jane Patterson/RNZ

Labour is promising at least $50 million to help farmers with planning to transition to environmentally-friendly practices and cope with growing compliance requirements.

The strategy is called integrated farm planning and it aims to create individualised farm plans that reduce costs and generate greater returns.

Labour describes it as "a single framework for farmers and growers to use for key parts of their operation, including environmental management such as freshwater and climate mitigation, labour, biosecurity, animal welfare, and health and safety".

It's a response to the sector saying it is "grappling with a growing number of compliance and that there is currently no universal system across central government, councils and industry to fulfil compliance requirements", Labour says.

In addition, it says integrated farm planning is "vital" in helping to achieve a "clean, green, carbon neutral New Zealand".

Integrated farm plans are intended to replace the "overlapping and wide ranging reporting, auditing and consents that are currently required" and minimise the need for consents.

"Over time we hope all on-property government reporting requirements will be done through integrated farm plans."

Party leader Jacinda Ardern was in Waikato to announce the policy.

She says, "Our primary sector is world-renowned for its trusted, healthy and safe food and fibre and has proved resilient through COVID-19. The sector is already in recovery with record export prices, helping us to grow our way out of the economic crisis of the global pandemic.

"We will support this recovery by making it easier, cheaper and less time consuming to meet various regulatory and reporting requirements and gather the data that ensures our farmers and growers have the opportunity to add value to their products and market them at a premium to the world."

The party's agriculture spokesperson Damien O'Connor says it can cost farmers and growers between $5000 and $10,000 per property for a plan.

"We will create a cost-sharing agreement with industry that will ensure every farmer and grower pays less for their compliance," O'Connor says.

"Cohesive national farm plans that adopt a whole farm approach will ensure that we stay ahead of the curve internationally when it comes to good farming practice.

"One of the first farm plan templates to be rolled out will seek to replace the consent process for intensive winter grazing. Working with the regional councils and the industry we will design a template that makes applying for intensive winter grazing consent much easier or, over time, supersedes the need for the consent process."

Damien O'Connor.
Damien O'Connor. Photo credit: Newshub.

Labour says farm planning will aim to achieve three main goals:

  • A comprehensive national planning framework that adopts a 'whole farm' approach, which farmers and growers can use to fulfil their requirements
  • Online tools and wider assistance for farmer and growers through extension services
  • Improved levels of digital data exchange across the sector.

Labour says it intends to build on the initial $50m funding, which it is calling a "kick-starter".