DairyNZ’s Adrian Brocksopp has been working with farmers throughout the Waikato to inform them about the proposed regulations.
Over the past couple of weeks, a core group of 115 farmers has attended eight district meetings organised by DairyNZ to learn about how they can make their own submissions, as well as contribute to a DairyNZ submission being made on behalf of all Waikato dairy farmers.
The deadline for submissions to be filed with the Waikato Regional Council is Wednesday next week (March 8).
“These farmers are across what the implications are for their farms and businesses, and they want to be heard on their concerns and opinions. We’ve worked with them on the content of their submissions, and provided guidance and tips for writing effective submissions,” Mr Brocksopp says.
“They know they need to be at the table participating in discussions about what happens in their own back yards, and when it happens.
“It’s important that all farmers say how the proposed plan could impact their business and community, and put forward alternatives so that they can meet the outcomes the plan is looking to achieve.”
The farmer meetings have been held in Otorohanga, Te Awamutu, Tokoroa, Cambridge, Ngakuru, Gordonton, Tuakau and Ngatea.
Mr Brocksopp says the district meetings follow events pre-Christmas when 850 farmers were introduced to the proposed regulations and the national policy on baseline contaminant levels across nitrogen, phosphate, sediment, and E. coli.
A total of 46 meetings have been held over the last two and a half years to keep dairy abreast of developments, and to seek farmer feedback.
“It’s great to see farmers getting involved. Yes, there are concerns, and no one likes to be told what they can and can’t do on their own land, but it’s universally understood there’s serious work to be done to reduce farming’s environmental footprint.
“Dairy has come a long way with all waterways on dairy farms now fenced off, or bridged, to exclude stock. Farmers have also planted out these waterway margins with native and bee-friendly species. Efficient effluent management schemes have been installed.”
DairyNZ is making a submission and is also part of the Waikato Dairy Environment Leaders Group, which is also making a submission.
Mr Brocksopp is in the DairyNZ research and development team, and has worked in nutrient management in the Waikato over the past decade. He holds a BSc (Hons) Agriculture and the Advanced Sustainable Nutrient Management qualification from Massey University
Farmer Comment – Laurie Pottinger, Otorohanga:
The Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) process has come up with a very responsible solution as it addresses the main four contaminants in the river.
I am a passionate angler, and, in my opinion the good work that the dairy industry has done with the fencing of waterways has made a noticeable improvement to water clarity in catchments that are mostly dairy farming.
The issues around nitrogen, in my view, are more around protecting the long term health of our water. The CSG has taken a very responsible stance on the nitrogen issue with the upper quartile of nitrogen leaches having to lower levels below the 75th percentile.
True grand-parenting would have rewarded the extreme end of nitrogen loss farmers.
The nitrogen reference point is needed for lower end farmers, as the first mitigation option farmers above the 75th percentile could potentially utilise is off farm winter grazing. Without restrictions on lower end farmers, the problem would simply be transferred around the catchment with higher loss farmers moving cows and wintering them on lower loss farms,
One of the positives of the CSG process is that it has provided a comprehensive understanding of what the contaminants are and where they are coming from. Knowing this allows everyone to contribute to the solutions. For example, for phosphate it has been identified that 45 percent comes from farms, all farms, not just dairy, while 18 percent comes from point sources (industry and town sewage, with Hamilton’s sewage pipe contributing 6.7 percent).
At a farm level, land contour increases the risk of phosphate loss to water, in particular with steep land leading to a waterway. However, soil type and farm practice must also be factored, therefore farm specific solutions are appropriate according to risk.
As a farmer I feel comfortable with the Healthy River Plan Change. I am making a submission as I feel there are several small improvements that can be made.
Senior Communications & Media Specialist
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