Water is a both a critical strategic asset and a source of recreation in New Zealand – and we all know it must be abundant, healthy, clean and cost effective.
While National encourages the constant improvement of our waterways, the recent proposals from the Government on Freshwater are shortsighted, and destined to have perverse effects on our primary sector and wider economy. It saddens me to see everyone struggling to grapple with these momentous changes in such a short timeframe.
The wide-ranging proposals will limit the flexibility of NZ farmers to adjust to market conditions and severely limit farmers’ abilities to make land use changes, which could restrict farmers from innovating – one of NZ’s key advantages. This means farmers looking to be on the cutting edge of the market and transition to new crops will be hamstrung.
Planting more trees
Ultimately, our primary sector and economy will suffer as a result. The only conversions being supported by this document is the planting of more trees.
This is heaping pressures onto a sector that is already at historically low levels of confidence. Despite the mounting pressure in the rural world, the Government has failed to even analyse how much these regulations will cost farmers and the wider economy.
The dismissive attitude of Davis Parker: “Trust me, I know what I’m doing”, doesn’t cut it when the livelihoods of 23,000 farming families are at stake. This Government appears content to treat our farmers like New Zealand’s cash cows and have little regard for their own wellbeing.
National established a comprehensive National Policy Statement while in government and worked alongside our primary sector to clean our waterways, which have been steadily improving as shown by the Government’s own data from Land, Air, Water Aotearoa, known as LAWA. This analysis of national river quality trends from 2008 to 2017 showed that for eight out of the nine water quality indicators reported on, more monitored sites were improving than degrading.
A large part of this consistent increase in quality is the huge amount of work farmers have already done to improve water quality. We signed an accord with the dairy industry that’s seen farmers fence off 98 per cent of their waterways, alongside spending more than $1 billion in environmental investment during the last five years. This is a major achievement from our farmers but not a story David Parker wants to tell.
It’s outrageous that the Government seems hell-bent on putting more and more shackles on the sector that produces 60 per cent of our exports and is the backbone of our economy. If we want first-world healthcare, transport and education, we have to sell something to the world to afford to buy our first world affluence. This means we should be encouraging sustainable growth for our industry, not stifling it with regulations in the name of political ideology.