Government action plan for good farming to improve water quality

New Zealand farmers and growers are be encouraged to have farm environmental plans under a new action plan launched by the Government last year.

A farm environment plan would remain voluntary nationwide with the government still deciding whether they should be made compulsory, Environment Minister David Parker said at the plan’s launch at the Don Rowlands Centre at Lake Karapiro.

“That’s one of the decisions central government is going to have to grapple with – should they be compulsory everywhere.”

Some regional councils including in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury have already made farm plans a requirement under new rules being introduced.

Parker said the action plan provided another tool for farmers to meet that obligation rather than creating a duplicate.

Called the Good Farming Practice Action Plan for Water Quality, its 21 principles covered nutrient levels, waterways, land and soil health, effluent management, and water and irrigation systems.

Progress would be monitored and reported on by a governance group backed by local and central government as well as industry group leaders.

Some regions, including Waikato have already made farm environmental plans a necessity for all farmers and growers.

The sheep and beef sector’s goal is to have its farmers with a tailored and active environmental plan by the end of 2021, Beef + Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor said.

Dairy and horticulture industries had similar plans targets with nearly 90 per cent of commercial growers part of a certified scheme.

The plans helped farmers identify and carry through good farming practices relevant to their farm and catchment.

One-third of New Zealand farmers already had an environmental plan in place. The rest of the farming community needed to adopt the principles, he said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder​ said some regional councils including Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury already required all farmers and growers create environmental plans as new plan changes were introduced.

The action plan would bring the rest of the country up to speed.

“Regardless of whether a regional council requires a farm environment plan or not, responsible farmers and growers can use this tool to identify practical steps they can take.”

 Parker said the action plan and subsequent farm plans allowed him to show the work being done by farmers to reduce their footprint when he was abroad negotiating in trade deals.

Parker was in Germany negotiating the free trade agreement with the European Union and was interviewed by its media.

He said the first question he was asked was the nitrate levels of New Zealand’s waterways.

“The rest of the world is looking at us and we have plenty of competitors on the other side of the world that want to have a reason not to trade with us.”

That was backed by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, who said it would prove to overseas customers that New Zealand farmers cared for their land and farms.

“They need traceably and they need integrity so when David [Parker] gets asked next time around the world in his trade role, ‘what are you doing’, he can answer absolutely and unequivocally that we are passionate and committed to our environment.”

While the action plan was universally welcomed by all industry groups, lobby group Choose Clean Water said it contained no concrete action and was flawed because of its failure to end dairy conversions.


Source: Stuff News

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