Dry Land Farmers Concerned

A delegation from Hurunui farmers to the Hurunui Waiau Zone Committee on Monday raised serious concerns about the effect of the Hurunui Waiau Regional Plan on the future of dry land farming. A letter from 40 farmers in the Cheviot area and the presence of several dry land farmers at the committee meeting in Amberley reinforced the concerns that were spoken to by James Hoban and Ben Ensor. Similar concerns have been expressed by Hawarden dry land farmers at earlier meetings.

The Hurunui Waiau Regional Plan includes a load limit for nitrates and phosphates in the Hurunui River that has been set to ensure water quality in the river remains at an acceptable level for environmental, cultural and recreational uses. The limit for phosphate has been exceeded and any farmer wishing to intensify by 10% or more needs to get a land use consent before doing so. The 10% relates to increases in nitrate and phosphate discharges below the root zone as measured using Overseer.

“What has become clear to all members of the zone committee,” said chair David Eder, “is that the 10% limit has a major impact on dry land farmers whose farming systems are low nutrient emitters and who rely on being able to continue to progressively increase production to remain profitable. Dry land increases will be relatively small in comparison to the nutrient discharges from intensive farming such as dairying.

“As the rules currently stand it will be harder for dry land farmers to increase production in the Hurunui and Waiau catchments than it is in red zone like the Waipara,” continued Mr Eder. ”This issue has become more apparent to all zone committee members as farmers have started using Overseer modelling and developing farm plans either as individuals or while participating in catchment group meetings.

“The zone committee will discuss the concerns raised by farmers on Monday at our next meeting in Waikari on Monday 22 September. Our meeting that day will be dedicated to this topic and considering how it can be most effectively addressed. It is important that the farming community attends that meeting and stays engaged in assisting the committee to develop a solution," David Eder continued. “The zone committee needs community input from both dry land and dairy farmers to sort out how more equitable nutrient allocations can be made in the Hurunui Waiau zone. This is likely to result in the zone committee making recommendations to the regional council on changes to the Hurunui Waiau Regional Plan that are more equitable to dry land farmers while still delivering the required environmental and cultural targets.

“The zone committee members have been committed to delivering solutions for water management in the zone since 2010. The same commitment will go into sorting out this issue,” concluded Mr Eder.