Pugging and pragmatism – Feds welcome winter grazing proposals but SAFE blasts continuance of “mud farming”

A government announcement on intensive winter grazing regulations  was denounced by the SAFE animal rights group in a statement headed Mud farming continues in the South Island.

Greenpeace struck a similar condemnatory note with a statement headed Backdown on winter grazing rules ‘delaying the inevitable’.  

Greenpeace said winter grazing churns paddocks to deep mud because intensive numbers of stock are confined to small feeding areas for longer than the soil and water can sustain. This mud washes into drains, streams and rivers, posing a risk to human health and the environment.

The Government proposals would change regulations initially designed to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. These changes include scrapping rules to prevent pugging damage from intensive winter grazing and instead recommending farmers take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to reduce pugging.

Federated Farmers, on the other hand, headed their press statement Pragmatism finally prevails on winter grazing.

The Government’s press statement was much more in harmony with the feds’ statement than the two others.  It was headed Proposed intensive winter grazing regulations updates are more practical for farmers and began: Continue reading

Government consults ag/hort sector on freshwater farm plan

The Government is inviting farmers and growers to provide their practical ideas to help develop high-quality and workable freshwater farm plans, in line with its freshwater goals.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker today released the consultation documents for freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion low slope maps.

Comment is being sought on a new, more accurate, mapping approach for stock exclusion that better reflects what farmers see on the ground.

These are part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. Public consultation with farmers, agricultural sector groups, iwi and Māori, councils, and environmental groups will run from 26 July – 12 September.

“I want to thank industry organisations for their input so far, which has improved on original proposals. There are many farmers and growers already committed to practices to improve water quality and it’s vital they have their say and contribute to this consultation,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Taking a farm planning approach is a flexible alternative. It also provides farmers a visible way of showing their sustainability credentials to the markets we sell in to, which will help boost value growth.”

David Parker said improving freshwater quality was important to all Kiwis.

“High-quality freshwater farm plans will provide a practical way for famers to meet the freshwater standards the Government introduced last year, while helping councils play their part.

“Everybody’s feedback will be carefully considered, and we expect the outcome to be released later this year.”

“Working together and getting good ideas from this consultation is important, and that’s why I encourage people to have their say. We believe a significant improvement in freshwater quality is achievable in five years – and we can have healthy waterways within a generation,” David Parker said.

Damien O’Connor said feedback was being sought on the content of freshwater farm plans, what outcomes could be achieved, and how plans could be certified, audited and amended.

“We will also be asking about the balance between using the low slope map and freshwater farm plans for identifying areas for stock exclusion.

“The Government is listening to, and helping farmers and growers as shown already by our work with the sector on He Waka Eke Noa, integrated farm planning and ensuring farmers are using the best practices for intensive winter grazing. This approach and these initiatives are fundamental to our Fit For A Better World roadmap,’’ Damien O’Connor said. 

David Parker said the Government would soon release a review of whether the nutrient management tool, Overseer, will be a useful long term tool. An earlier report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment called for a re-evaluation of Overseer.

“We’re committed to ensuring we have the right settings and tools in place to lift freshwater quality and help people achieve that goal,” David Parker said.

The discussion document is now available on the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries websites.

The online submission forms will be available when the consultation opens on the week of 26 July on the Ministry for the Environment’s website in the have your say section.

Stock exclusion regulations – proposed changes

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/stock-exclusion-regulations-proposed-changes-to-the-low-slope-map

Freshwater farm plan regulations discussion document

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/freshwater-farm-plan-regulations-discussion-document

Freshwater farm plan regulations supporting document

https://environment.govt.nz/publications/freshwater-farm-plan-regulations-regulatory-impact-analysis

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Government welcomes farmers’ undertaking to improve intensive winter grazing practices

The farming sector has agreed to make immediate improvements to intensive winter grazing practices for the coming season and the Government will help them achieve this.

Intensive winter grazing (IWG) is a farming practice where stock are confined to outdoor feeding areas planted with fodder crops.

“If done poorly, IWG has serious negative effects on animal welfare and the environment, particularly freshwater health and estuaries. Farming leaders accept that these practices need to improve and they want to be part of the solution,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

In return for the farming sector’s commitment, the Government has deferred the introduction of IWG practice regulations for a year until May 2022, while these improvements are made. However, rules preventing the expansion of IWG will still apply.

The Government will work with the farming sector to improve on-the-ground IWG practices for the benefit of freshwater quality and animal welfare.

“The one year deferment will enable an IWG farm plan ‘module’ to be rapidly developed, tested and deployed ready for formal incorporation into wider certified freshwater farm plans in 2022,” David Parker said.

David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor say they have always seen the freshwater farm plan regime as the key to achieving improvements in IWG practices.

The Ministers thanked Beef + Lamb, Dairy NZ and the entire Southland Advisory Group for working cooperatively with the Government on effective and practical solutions to manage the impacts of winter grazing on the environment and animal welfare.

Damien O’Connor said the direction of travel is known to all involved.

“This decision provides certainty of direction and timeframe. We can get on and put farm plans into place as quickly as possible across all farming operations,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Immediate improvements in IWG practices this season are required, and I have set out my expectations to both councils and industry bodies,” David Parker said.

“Increased monitoring and reporting by councils will also ensure measurable improvements in IWG by May 2022. This will include quarterly reports to me.”

A draft IWG farm plan module has been developed by the Southland Advisory Group, which included Environment Southland, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb, Fish and Game and Federated Farmers, with input from iwi and Local Government NZ.

“The draft module will give councils and the farming sector a head start in meeting their commitments to us,” David Parker said.

The Government is determined to stop further degradation of our waterways and estuaries and to improve water quality for all New Zealanders. That is part of our commitment to lay the foundations for a better future for the generations of New Zealanders to come.

Source:  Minister for the Environment and Minister of Agriculture

Replacing the RMA with two new pieces of legislation – experts comment on review panel’s proposals

The Government has welcomed the most comprehensive review of New Zealand’s resource management system since the Resource Management Act (RMA) was passed in 1991. The findings and recommendations – set out in a report titled New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand – were prepared by an independent review panel led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC.

The panel has recommended the replacement of the existing RMA by two separate pieces of legislation – a Natural and Built Environments Act and a Strategic Planning Act.

It will be up to the next Government to consider the report and decide whether to implement some or all of the recommendations. Environment Minister David Parker said he expected political parties would develop their policies for the upcoming general election campaign in light of the report’s findings.

The review panel said the proposed new Natural and Built Environments Act (NBEA), taking a substantially different approach from the RMA, would focus on enhancing the quality of the environment, housing and achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations. Continue reading

Govt announces programme aimed at cleaning up NZ rivers and lakes

    • Setting higher health standards at swimming spots
    • Requiring urban waterways to be cleaned up and new protections for urban streams
    • Putting controls on higher-risk farm practices such as winter grazing and feed lots
    • Setting stricter controls on nitrogen pollution and new bottom lines on other measures of waterway health
    • Ensuring faster council planning
    • Requiring mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans
    • These actions will be supported by $700m of funding

 

Committed to clean up the country’s waterways, the Government today announced a package intended to  create jobs and benefit the value of New Zealand’s agriculture exports and tourism attractions.

Primary sector and other groups will be financially assisted with the implementation of the new clean water standards through a $700 million fund that will create jobs in riparian and wetland planting, removing sediments and other initiatives to prevent farm run off entering waterways.

Environment Minister David Parker said many of New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are under serious threat after years of decline and political inaction.

“If we don’t start cleaning up our water now they will get worse, become more expensive to fix and we risk serious damage to our international clean green reputation,” he said. Continue reading

Expert reaction gathered after Government launches action plan for healthy waterways

The Government has announced its programme to stop the degradation of New Zealand’s waterways and clean up its rivers and lakes within a generation.  The Science Media Centre has posted expert comment on the plan.

Environment Minister David Parker said the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways (here) sets out the proposed new requirements to improve freshwater, which include:
Continue reading

Horticulturalists welcome draft proposals on protecting NZ’s most productive soils

Horticulture New Zealand was quick to welcome the Government’s draft National Policy Statement on Highly Productive Land, saying it will help ensure the country can grow its own vegetables and fruit.

The policy statement requires councils to abide by a new national approach to protect highly productive land.

About 14% of New Zealand land is considered highly productive, but it is under increasing pressure from urban expansion as the need for housing ramped up.

HortNZ Natural Resources and Environment Manager, Michelle Sands says the policy statement recognises that New Zealand needs its best soils for domestic food production.

Once the best soils have houses built on them, they have been lost to food production, she said.

But with good planning and buffer zones, houses and horticulture can co-exist, which is important for three main reasons.

  • So growers can make best use of available land.
  • So growers can quickly get fresh produce to market, and
  • So growers have access to workers for their labour-intensive industry.

Continue reading

Government responds (cautiously) to report on gene editing but National calls for urgency

The Government’s response to the recently released papers on gene editing from the Royal Society Te Apārangi was issued by Environment Minister David Parker, not Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

We may suppose this is a consequence of New Zealand’s legislation on genetic modification being administered by the Environmental Protection Authority.

The society’s papers note “there are considerable benefits that gene editing can bring to our lives, particularly in health,” Mr Parker acknowledged.

The provisions governing gene editing, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), were amended in 2003 in line with the Government’s overall policy of proceeding with caution while preserving opportunities. Continue reading

Environment Minister sticks to his position on genetic engineering and the precautionary approach

Environment Minister David Parker has reiterated his belief in the precautionary approach being applied to  genetic engineering.

National’s Dr Parmjeet Parmar asked in Parliament if he stood by his statement about regulation of genetic engineering, “I think that the precautionary approach hasn’t done us any harm so far, either economically or environmentally”; if so, why?

Mr Parker said yes, “because it has benefited New Zealand, which explains why GM regulation did not substantially change over the last nine years of the previous Government”.

Hansard records the rest of the exchange:

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does he believe the Ministry for the Environment is incorrect to have concluded that New Zealand’s regulatory framework for genetic modification, under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, is increasingly difficult to enforce, and may be limiting the country’s competitiveness?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Has he asked for any further advice on the economic or environmental impact of continuing his precautionary approach in light of his colleague the Hon James Shaw’s willingness to take a fresh look at the genetic engineering regulations in New Zealand?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I don’t understand that the Hon James Shaw was proposing to abandon a precautionary approach in respect of GM. I did say to the Environment Committee last month that there is a rising issue as to whether or not some new genetically modified organism (GMO) techniques are distinguishable from other non-GMO changes. That issue is not quite upon us but may arise in the future, and the Prime Minister’s chief science officer is bringing forward some advice in respect of that issue.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does he believe organisms created using gene editing technology present greater risk than naturally occurring organisms?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I’m not satisfied that that is yet sufficiently clear to allow those techniques to be unregulated.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does he agree with the Ministry for the Environment’s advice that failing to update our legislation may result in organisms being regulated at a level not proportionate to the risk they pose and New Zealand missing out on the benefits they could provide, such as advancing success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pests?

Hon DAVID PARKER: If there was a miracle cure for climate change brought about by a GM crop, I’m sure that any Government would consider it. At the moment, it could be considered under the existing regulatory framework.

Source:  Hansard

From the Knowledge Wave to the Digital Age – Govt announces focus on agritech

The Government today announced a sector-led approach to grow industry innovation and boost productivity, with an early focus on agritech.

The flipside of the impact of the technological revolution on the future of work is the huge potential it opens up for businesses and the development of high-skilled, higher paying jobs, Acting Economic Development Minister David Parker said.

The new direction is outlined in the document, From the Knowledge Wave to the Digital Age: Growing Innovative Industries in New Zealand, which also charts the challenges and opportunities the New Zealand economy must meet.

Growing innovative industries is a key focus of the Government’s broader economic strategy. Continue reading