Government water proposals – the glass half full view…

Waikato_riverGeoff Simmons

On Saturday Nick Smith released the latest document in what has been a barrage of consultation from his Ministry for the Environment: this time on fresh water.Predictably the reaction of the Opposition has been negative, saying the Government isn’t doing enough to protect our fresh water. However, they have overlooked a lot of good things this document contains. Nick Smith is proposing changes that make up for many of the glaring deficiencies left by Amy Adams’ last attempt to improve fresh water policy in 2014.So today’s blog will reflect on that we should be grateful for in the latest plan, and tomorrow we will turn our minds to the problems that remain.

Keeping stock out of rivers

After all the publicity about livestock in our rivers and lakes over this summer, the Government couldn’t avoid taking action on this one. The public has realised that despite the work of the dairy industry there was no guarantee that stock were being kept out of our waterways. The rules differed across regions, and even when rules were broken there was rarely any consequence. Nick Smith has addressed this.

In the lead up to the last election the Government confirmed that dairy cattle would be excluded from streams and lakes by mid next year, although this was after voluntary action by the industry meant that 95% of eligible waterways were already fenced. Of course that left other farms – such as dairy support farms (where cows are grazed but not milked), pig, deer and beef farms. The new announcement means that – depending on the steepness of the land – between 2025 and 2030 stock will have to be kept out of waterways or farmers will face a fine.

It actually wasn’t so hard to make this change; Mr Smith has simply implemented the recommendation of the Land and Water Forum report from last year. The beef industry in particular saw the writing on the wall and agreed to these changes.

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