Injecting a dose of reality to rules

If you formed your opinions based solely on mainstream or social media, you’d think farming was like the wild west, with little regard for rules, the environment or the views of others.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Most farmers want to do the right thing.  We’ve seen examples of this across Otago this summer, with farmers voluntarily rostering or ceasing their irrigation water takes after dry weather lowered river levels, or actively engaging with a range of parties to find local solutions to local issues.

Besides this, regardless of voluntary efforts, farmers still have a raft of rules and regulations to meet. 

For example, beyond their individual consenting or water permit requirements, Otago farmers must also comply with requirements under their District Plan, the Otago Regional Water Plan, Otago Air Plan, the Pest Management Plan and other biosecurity requirements, stock and traffic bylaws, plus meet national obligations around animal welfare, health and safety, employment and many others. 

A considerable number of additional Resource Management Act planning processes are also proposed across Otago at any given time. There is not a single farming business in Otago immune from potential impacts.  

Federated Farmers is involved in all of these processes, whether at the local, regional or national level.  

In an ideal world, rules would be developed with a clear understanding of the impact they will ultimately have on resource users, and the need to ensure clarity and workability for those directly impacted.  

However, we’re not in an ideal world, and too often rules are put on the table which don’t take into account the realities of farming. This is a problem because New Zealand literally relies on farmers to put bread and butter on the table. 
Federated Farmers doesn’t get involved in processes to stop all rules. Our role is to ensure that any rules that are adopted are justified, realistic, workable and go no further than necessary.  We don’t like rules for rules’ sake, or rules that have financial or social impacts on farming businesses and communities without additional environmental or other benefits. 

We’ve seen far too many instances of perverse outcomes, where not only do rules fail to achieve their objective, but sadly lead to worse outcomes and increased costs.

We’ve also seen the introduction of new rules from ‘on high’ being the only approach considered, when the better path, leading to better outcomes, would be to get alongside farmers to explain the issues and work together towards mutual solutions. 

Work relating to rules, plans and regulations is only going to get busier, and the only constant is change. 

We figure if we put the hard work in at the front end when the rules are being developed, it will deliver better outcomes in the form of rules that are as realistic and workable as possible when it ultimately counts.

Kim Reilly - South Island Regional Policy Manager, Federated Farmers