Summary of Freshwater Policy Meetings | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

At recent B+LNZ freshwater policy workshops around NZ, we heard the passion farmers have for the environment and gained valuable insights into their current concerns around policy frameworks.

The Government is making a number of changes to freshwater policies and regulations, providing a great opportunity for B+LNZ and our farmers to provide feedback on the future of freshwater policy. B+LNZ is committed to ensuring that the feedback we provide to government and regional councils reflects the farmer’s voice.

B+LNZ GM Policy and Advocacy Dave Harrison said focus meetings provided invaluable input for this process. Meetings were held between 5 and 13 June in Balclutha, Christchurch, Te Kuiti and Feilding.

“We would like to thank everyone who took the time to attend a workshop and provide their thoughts and insights. The team gathered some great material to support the continued delivery of a freshwater policy work program aimed at delivering workable and practical policy outcomes for our farmers. ”

Harrison says the farmers’ passion for the environment and taking care of fresh water came across strongly during the meetings, as did the many steps farmers have already taken to improve fresh water on the farm.

“It was also clear that the current regulatory environment is preventing farmers from making progress and is causing real concern for the future.

“The meetings were really useful in identifying problems and solutions to test our thinking as we develop a freshwater policy roadmap to take to government and regional councils. We want to ensure we get this right and develop sustainable, lasting policy solutions.”

Nationally important subjects

During the seminars, the farmers indicated the political issues they were facing and their priorities. There were some regional differences, but overall the top three topics that farmers considered important were consistent:

1) Regulated freshwater farm planning

Farmers agreed that freshwater farm plans must be based on a regime that motivates and encourages on-farm environmental improvements, and that farm planning should be anchored in a risk-based approach. They felt that they needed to be able to complete plans themselves and that they should not need multiple farm environmental plans. They also felt that a two-step certification and audit process should not be required. While there was general agreement on this issue, there was considerable discussion about specific solutions which has given B+LNZ’s environmental policy team much to think about as we continue to develop our positions and the feedback we provide to government.

2) Regional freshwater policy processes including changes to regional plans and regulations

The workshops were a good space for farmers to share different problems and experiences they have with regional freshwater processes in their area. Farmers felt that the regional council’s processes are complicated to be involved in and that many of the proposed rules are not feasible, and they often do not feel heard by the municipalities. B+LNZ will continue to provide feedback to councils that active engagement with rural communities and farmers is essential within regional planning processes.

3) National results and establishment of water quality targets

Farmers were concerned about the possibility of achieving the national final results, noting that they are unrealistic and impractical. Farmers’ views on how and where targets should be set varied from having catchment-level to regional-level models, although all agreed that the process must work together with farmers and the community. They agreed that robust data is essential and that outcomes-based approaches will yield the best results. Farmers were pleased to see that B+LNZ has been working proactively in this area – more information will be available soon.

Bond feedback about the workshops

At the end of each workshop, B+LNZ provided farmers with a survey to complete. All farmers who participated agreed or strongly agreed that:

  • the farmers had the opportunity to submit their views
  • the day was a good use of time
  • that they would come to another similar environmental policy session.

Bond feedback quotes included:

“informative afternoon, perfect”

“Allowing farmers to speak up and provide input is important and will result in better/practical outcomes”

“The B+L team asked good questions and created a good, safe environment for us to share our thoughts”

“good constructive approach to the subject”

Next step

Harrison says the development of B+LNZ’s response to the government’s environmental policy changes is ongoing and there will be further opportunities for farmers to get involved – currently planned:

  • further testing of our freshwater and climate change policy positions during the nationwide B+LNZ Director roadshow (see roadshow event page for dates and locations)
  • more detailed workshops on climate change policy at the end of September, following a similar format to the Freshwater Policy Workshops – locations and dates are being worked out and more information will be available in e-diaries soon – please Register your interest in participating here.
  • workshops on biodiversity are also slated for late 2024 or early 2025, with more information to come.
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