21 Jul 2008

Council pressing ahead with rural plan

1:03 pm on 21 July 2008

The Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council is pressing ahead with a proposal to consolidate its planning rules despite objections.

Farmers say the so-called One Plan will mean a loss of their property rights.

The proposed document defines how the natural and physical resources of the Manawatu-Wanganui region are to be managed over the next 10 years.

The Ruapehu, Manawatu, Wanganui and Horowhenua district is largely hill country and has had problems with sediment run-off into its water catchments for years.

The council says the aim of the One Plan is to address critical issues such as declining water quality, increasing water demand and unsustainable hill country land use.

Regional council group manager for planning and regulatory, Greg Carlyon, says the document consolidates all the regional plans over the next 10 years, in one place.

Federated Farmers Ruapehu president Lyn Neeson, says the council wants to do what's to be known as a "whole farm plan" with individual farmers.

These plans will cover everything from the farm's soil structure, the slope of the hill, fertiliser applications and also the farm's financial accounts.

She says the cost of these plans has been put at about $10,000, to be split three ways between the Government, ratepayers and the farmers.

At the moment the council is asking for voluntary retirement of hill country, but she says farmers are worried that this may become mandatory in the next few years.

The newly-formed Taumarunui Farmers Group has been specifically established to fight for farmer's land rights.

Chair Gordon Gower takes issue with the council's use of the term of "highly erodible land" and says he does not think it is necessary.

He says farmers have done a lot of work to make the land more stable, and much of it is still very productive.

Rural Women New Zealand describes the One Plan as not well thought-out, as there's been no analysis of its possible economic impact to farmers or urban people in the region. It predicts a very negative impact.

Interest elsewhere

Federated Farmers says it's received inquiries from farmers around New Zealand who are concerned a similar plan may be adopted by regional councils in their area.

One council which is keeping a close eye on the proceedings is the Southland regional council, which says it's considering combining some of its own regional plans into one document.

Hearings for the One Plan started this month and are due to run until April next year.