24 Aug 2010

Dairy farming rules tightened under regional plan

1:59 pm on 24 August 2010

The Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council has confirmed that dairy farming will be a controlled activity in the region, but has backed off regulating other types of farming or horticultural land use.

The final version of the regional council's One Plan, released on Tuesday, has been written by an independent panel of commissioners and covers the management of the region's natural resources over the next 10 years.

It has been finalised after six years of consultation, more than 500 submissions and strong opposition from some farmer groups who have said its conditions for land and water protection could force some out of business.

The regional council's chief executive, Michael McCartney, says because runoff from dairy farms is polluting the region's waterways, the activity will now be regulated.

Mr McCartney says dairy farmers will be required to meet effluent and fertiliser management conditions, and must keep stock out of waterways.

He says day-to-day farming on hill country land will be allowed to continue without any regulation.

However, the One Plan tightens up conditions for clearing scrub off steep farm land.

The plan will now control the activities of only 400 of the 1000 dairy farms in the most polluted areas.

Revised plan 'reasonable'

The draft plan was criticised by farmers because it would have restricted many types of farming and required resource consents for land use changes, such as from growing crops to sheep farming.

Federated Farmers' Ruapehu president, Lyn Neeson, says earlier versions of the plan would have meant that some farmers in the area would have had to destock to meet water and land conditions which would have made their businesses unprofitable.

She says it's a relief the council has listened to them, and that day-to-day farming on hill country land will be allowed to continue without any regulation.

Ms Neeson says farmers were also concerned they wouldn't have been able to clear manuka regrowth and gorse from hill country paddocks, however rules requiring consent only for land on very steep slopes look more reasonable.

Dairy farmer says some aspects may need to be appealed

Manawatu dairy farming representative Andrew Hoggard who's been involved with the planning process from its inception, also thinks that the final version of the One Plan is reasonable and the council has taken notice of farmer concerns.

He says proposals on land use capability targets covering nitrogen leaching and the use of farm strategies, that would have seriously compromised the ability to farm, have been taken out.

But about 400 dairy farms in some catchments will have to deal with increased regulation of activities such as fertiliser use, which Mr Hoggard says will present challenges that may need to be appealed, for example how requirements such as for best management practice are interpreted and implemented.

He says conditions covering conversion to dairy farming from other land uses will be difficult to meet in some areas, such as Horowhenua sand country, and that may also need to be challenged.

The plan is open to appeal for 60 days.