New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark says Horizons' One Plan is dangerous for the economy of Tararua and could put farmers out of business.
With 33 per cent of the GDP in Tararua from the primary sector, Mr Mark said the cost implications of Horizons Regional Council's One Plan, following the latest Environment Court ruling, would seriously affect our economy.
Tararua dairy farmers produce 33 million kilograms of milk but if Horizons can't come up with a revised One Plan, there would be a loss of 15 million kilograms and a $105 million hit on the economy of Tararua annually, along with a loss of up to 400 jobs, Russell Phillips of the Tararua Community Economic Impact Society, has said.
Four and a half years ago businessman and now deputy mayor Allan Benbow produced figures which showed a $70m hit to our economy from the One Plan, figures which were supported by Nimmo-Bell (business and investment advisers in agribusiness and food). With a lift in payout and production this figure is now $105m.
Reiterating what he'd told a Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce meeting, (Dannevirke News, July 7) Mr Mark said he was greatly concerned about the consequences of the Environment Court's decision.
The court's decision followed the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Wellington Fish & Game's declaratory proceedings against Horizons Regional Council and parts of its One Plan.
"It's a decision which stands to potentially reduce dairy farmers' incomes by up to 61 per cent," Mr Mark said.
"This could see farmers either shut down or potentially lose their farms. The One Plan also has the potential to smash towns and villages across Tararua.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, while everyone wants clean water, if every piece of water in this country is to be made swimmable, God help us."
Mr Mark was concerned the Environment Court had not taken into account the economy and social impact of its decision on our community.
"This reinforces to me that there has to be some regulatory control given to the people in the district.
"Any decisions should be made by people in Tararua, not a bunch of busybodies and know-it-alls from Auckland and Wellington.
"There is no reason for any elected MP or government to sit on their hands on this. Labour and National have failed the people of Tararua and that's unacceptable.
"The environmental work farmers do is huge, but painting of farmers as dirty dairying is an easy finger to point.
"For someone like EDS to have a say about water in this electorate is simply ridiculous. They should go and clean up their own dirty waterways in Auckland."
Horizons strategy and policy group manager Dr Nic Peet has said working through the implications of the declarations has raised complex issues around things such as assessing the impact of individual farming operations on overall water quality.
"Put simply, the challenge is translating legal decisions into a practical consenting process."
Labour's Wairarapa candidate, Kieran McAnulty, said his party welcomed any attempt to clean up our waterways and prevent future deterioration of rivers.
"Regional councils play a crucial role in this. However, we acknowledge the financial commitment and effort made by many farmers to do their bit.
"But it is vital any council requirements placed on farmers is done in a manner that also acknowledges these efforts and gives them a reasonable notice period."
Mr McAnulty said the response to Labour's proposed water levy had been positive when he door-knocked throughout the electorate.
"I've found almost universal support for our proposal to make commercial water bottlers pay for the water they make profit on. This would be at a per litre rate.
"In regards to irrigation levy, people see that the scaremongering by National and New Zealand First does not stack up. There will be no $18 cabbages or $75 bottles of wine.
"A commercial charge on irrigation will not affect food prices, as recently conceded by irrigation New Zealand. Farmers who don't irrigate will not pay. Tararua is not known for irrigation.
"Any price on irrigation [at per 1000 litre rate] will be set after full consultation with industry. Profitability of industry is assured."
Mr McAnulty said all the negative and hyperbolic predictions distracted from the conversation we needed to be having - that New Zealand could not continue to have its clean, green image undermined by the state of the environment.
"That includes the impact of urban New Zealand. Just this month we've seen international documentaries released questioning our claims to be a clean producer.
"It's in everyone's interest, including primary industry, to protect our image, long term. That's what we trade off.
"Once I explain my focus on regional development, primary industry and long-term planning for regional areas like Tararua, and once I explain that I wouldn't support any policies which threatened rural communities, people see I'm genuine."
Green Party candidate John Hart said although everyone acknowledged we needed to move the whole industry to a more sustainable footing, it was important that it was done in a fair and equitable way.
"Some land use will need to change, but nobody wants to see farmers out of business.
"The Green Party is open to putting a fair price on commercial water use, but our policy is to talk to all stakeholders after the election.
"We need to have the conversation about water, how we share the benefits of its use, as well as the responsibilities for preserving it for future generations."
James Harold, standing as an Independent, has called it ridiculous to have a 2020-2050 timeframe for the clean-up of our waterways.
"Personally, I believe the hemp and medical cannabis industry should be allowed to take off in our country and all the money we make from that can help clean up our waterways.
"We should also be fencing waterways and sorting out our worst wastewater plants.
"I can see they [farmers] have been trying but the time frame isn't good enough. We've got to look after our environment first, otherwise what will our kids grow up to?"