Farmers are at risk of breaking the law as the Government’s winter grazing regime becomes increasingly confusing and planting for winter crops needs to take place, says Federated Farmers national board spokesperson and South Canterbury farmer Colin Hurst.
D-Day looms for farmers to have consents in place, warned Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and DairyNZ.
The Government had been slow to implement freshwater farm plans, forcing farmers into an expensive consent process, while councils nationwide were struggling with the consenting burden.
“We’ve been told by the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Primary Industries, and various regional councils that ‘it’s ok’ and nothing will happen if farmers get planting, even though they’d be at risk of breaking the law,” Hurst said.
He said Federated Farmers, B+LNZ and DairyNZ anticipated this outcome and even warned the Government.
“The Government hasn’t delivered a farm plan pathway as promised and they can’t even tell us when it will be ready,” Hurst said.
“Regional councils are trying, but they are overworked, just like farmers.
"It’s been estimated that up to 10,000 farmers will need to apply for a resource consent without delay, which will waste a lot of time and money.
“Both councils and the Government have recognised that farmers have improved winter grazing practice, but the Government hasn’t delivered on its promise to develop a farm plan pathway.”
The current rules require farmers who carry out winter grazing – and don’t meet a range of permitted activity criteria – to either have a certified Freshwater Farm Plan or to apply for a resource consent from November 1, 2022.
However, with the development of Freshwater Farm Plans being delayed, thousands of farmers must now apply for a consent.
Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and B+LNZ wrote to Minister David Parker in August calling for winter grazing rules to be put on hold until November 2023, as the Government had not yet implemented crucial elements of the new framework.
There had been no response.
A second letter was sent to Minister Parker on September 22, which also included Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Hurst said some councils were advising farmers not to apply for a resource consent, even if the law required it.
“In the view of Federated Farmers, this is placing a lot of risk on farmers. If things go wrong on the farm and council action is taken, a farmer will be in a far worse position than if they had a resource consent,” Hurst said.
- By Pat Deavoll