Momentum builds for farmer movement fighting for more 'common sense' around freshwater rules

Farmers in Southland are continuing to fight against freshwater regulations they say are "just crazy", urging the Government to put more "common sense" rules in place.

Groundswell NZ was founded following a tractor protest in Gore earlier this year. Now, the group is organising a petition calling for action from Parliament. 

Laurie Paterson, one of the founders, says support for the movement has been overwhelming. 

"We're just a bunch of farmers but we want to do something about these totally unworkable regulations that the Government's thrust on us,' Paterson told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange over the weekend. 

In recent months farmers have been increasingly vocal about their opposition to new freshwater regulations introduced earlier this year.

In August, Federated Farmers Southland president Geoffrey Young encouraged farmers in the region to boycott certain rules, particularly those concerning winter grazing, because they were not "fit for purpose".  

One of the more controversial rules - which will come into effect next year - is around resowing dates. The regulations state winter crop paddocks must be re-sown by October 1, or November 1 in Southland and Otago.

But farmers in the deep south say wet conditions in that part of the country mean in some years it's simply not possible to get paddocks re-sown until late November or even December.

"I can't understand how anyone that had a basic secondary school education couldn't figure out that New Zealand is 1600km long so what's happening in Northland is not going to be the same as what's happening in Southland," Paterson told Rural Exchange.

He said the majority of farmers are already making efforts around freshwater quality.

"Farmers down here are really conscious about it because they have to do winter cropping - we have a drought every year, it's a wet one called winter, that's all, and we have to make provision for it.  These sowing dates are just crazy, like this year we were supposed to have everything done by the first of November and in previous times it was the first of October - we'll that's even more mad."

Paterson said he believed the rules needed to be "rebuilt from the ground up - with workable things that people can do".

"You can't change nature, that's the thing, and we have to work with the weather and so you've just got to wait for things sometimes. 

"No farmer wants to leave paddocks without anything in them growing because that's how they make their business - everybody's trying to make everything at the earliest time anyway."

Last week, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said work was underway to make sure the new regulations were practical to implement, but said it could be months before any changes were finalised.