The use of ‘grandparenting’ as a means of controlling nitrogen application on farms is to be looked at by the Government, says Minister for the Environment Nick Smith.
“I have directed officials to look at the practice of ‘grandparenting’ and a wide range of other options for water allocation, including their costs, benefits and impacts on all parts of the community, and to consider overseas approaches. This builds on the work of the Land and Water Forum and international experience.
“I have also established a technical advisory group to advise officials on the practical impact of different options,” says Nick.
He is responding to a comment by Rick Burke, chairman of Farmers for Positive Change which questions the grandparenting provisions of the Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change 1.
The Minister says he welcomes media and public interest in the issues regarding our fresh water. “It is great that the environment is at the forefront of conversation around New Zealand, as we need all New Zealanders to be involved in this. I often say the environment is not just the Government’s responsibility but the responsibility of all New Zealanders. We all have an interest in good quality fresh water.”
Farmers take responsibility
The Government wants to work with the farming community to ensure all farmers have a good understanding about land use and how it affects the environment. “We also want to make sure farmers take responsibility for the contaminants their activities produce. This is not just about nitrogen but also phosphorus, pathogens and the amount of sediment we put in our rivers and waterways.
“With the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, this Government has required regional councils to set limits on the discharge of contaminants like nitrogen and phosphorus to New Zealand’s rivers and lakes,” says Nick.
“The very robustness of these limits on contaminant discharges makes it challenging to reach fair decisions over who can no longer increase discharges and who has to make reductions.
“I am acutely aware of how these decisions affect people in our community; from the dairy farmers who have developed their family businesses in full accordance with the law, to the drystock farmers wanting options for potential changes in land use or intensification.
Adapt to new reality
“I am of the view that all parts of the community must contribute to cleaner water in New Zealand. Those with high levels of contaminant discharge clearly need to make reductions. Those planning intensification or land use change also need to adjust to the new reality and find innovative ways to develop their businesses within limits.
“I agree we must ensure we manage our environment in a sustainable manner to ensure our natural resources are preserved for generations to come.
“I certainly agree that we must all work together to ensure our environment is protected and managed in a sustainable manner to ensure our natural resources are preserved for generations to come. I look forward to working with Farmers for Positive Change on the solutions for improving our fresh water together.”
Nick says there are some specific errors in Rick’s comments:
• In Canterbury, the ‘Matrix of Good Management’ programme has estimated levels of discharge for farms of different types deploying recognised good practice for managing nitrogen. This, rather than historic levels of discharges, is the starting point for reductions in nitrogen in Hinds and Selwyn-Te Waihora.
• Both Hinds and Selwyn-Te Waihora require more stringent reductions in nitrogen from higher discharging land uses and afford some flexibility to lower discharging land uses.
• Lake Taupo is the only scheme in the country that uses historic discharges as a basis for nitrogen allocation.