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Environment Southland responds à Fed Farmers

Environment Southland responds à Fed Farmers

Federated Farmers Southland branch sent a message to its members critiquing Environment Southlands draft targets and limits. The regional council chairman Nicol Holrrell stated that the statement was “disappointing”.

On January 14, the federation declaration stated that Environment Southland had published its draft limits for nitrogen, sediment, and E.coli load decreases in Southlands’ rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

The statement stated that these draft limits and targets were based on science that has not been subject to formal approval, consultation or plan change process. They also lack consideration of economic, community, and other factors (which is a requirement both of the RMA as the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management).

“It is deeply troubling that Environment Southland chose not to explain the context of the targets and limits during the holiday period. Environment Southland did so despite months of pressure to release targets and limits and explain their intent. This has not been achieved to date.

Federated Farmers has serious concerns about the timing of the targets. Federated Farmers also has concerns about how they were reached, particularly the suggestion that the Share your Wai campaign of a few years back was the community consultation that led the setting these extreme targets.

“Feds is also deeply worried about the reasonableness of these targets. This is a desire to restore waterways to pre-settlement conditions without considering the impact it could have upon major flood control modifications which were implemented for the benefit all of the community.

“This risk could undermine existing efforts of farmers to improve water-quality, as people may disengage. This also reduces confidence that other businesses or financiers need to invest and participate the rural sector.”

The statement stated that E.coli found in Southland was largely due to birds. It is also naturally occurring and poses a lower health risk.

It also criticised other targets that were calculated and presented.

“Environment Southland now says that the targets are not final. Your provincial executive intends that they adhere to that.

“Genuine community consultation is necessary to ensure that values are determined taking into account costs. Although there are financial benefits and costs, the old saying “You can’t get green if you’re in the red” applies equally to the province and individual businesses.

In reply, Mr Horrell claimed that confusion could result from the federations declaration.

He stated, “Let’s be clear, Environment Southland did not release any new information during the holiday period nor have we announced any draft limit or targets.”

“Environment Southland in partnership with Te Ao Marama continue to work towards improving freshwater using specific processes and timelines set out in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater 2020.

“The community also expressed their desire to see better water quality within our region, as shown by the feedback they provided during our community engagement events like Share Your Wai.”

Mr Horrell stated that the council has compared its assessment on the region’s environmental health to its draft freshwater goals.

“A significant improvement is seen in the current waterbodies state, rather than any return of a preEuropean state.

“Recently, I have modelled the reductions that could be required in contaminants from waterways to meet these draft targets. These numbers give an idea of the change required, but they are not targets or limits.

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“We are required by law to set limits and targets. These will be part of the update of the Southland Water and Land Plan. We expect to notify this by the end 2023.

Mr Horrell stated that the council would first draw on economic analysis, environmental science, and Maori knowledge. He also said that the council would give the public the opportunity to participate and provide feedback.

“Environment Southland, Te Ao Marama Inc have been sharing science information directly with different groups since October. They will continue this approach throughout the year. This included a briefing for Federated Farmers executives at the beginning of November, and presentations to various catchment and stakeholder groups as well as community boards. More presentations are planned for next year.

“By sharing this information, we intend to build upon the good actions already in place in the region, and include the work of catchment group.

“The numbers from the latest science modeling are confronting,” said Mr Horrell.

“It’s important that people take time to understand this information. Think about what you do on your farm, in business, or in your town and see if there are any improvements that could have been made.

“The magnitude of the change needed over 25 years is immense, but getting started and working together will make this task far more achievable.”

Mr Horrell encouraged people read the relevant information on the website, to join their local catchment groups, or to contact the council if there are any questions.

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