Federated Farmers hails Court ruling as a win for Rotorua community

 15 August, 2019

The voices of farmers in Rotorua, led by Federated Farmers, have been instrumental in the Environment Court’s rejection of Land Use Capability (LUC) as a tool for nitrogen allocation.

Federated Farmers, along with the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective, has been fighting a proposal by Rotorua Lakes Council, forestry and others seeking to allocate nitrogen discharges using LUC methodology.  With evidence from member farmers in the catchment, as well as by engaging experts and consultants, Federated Farmers demonstrated the LUC proposal would fail farm businesses and their communities to the point of potential ruin, Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

“It would also have had a more uncertain environmental outcome than the original proposal  by Bay of Plenty Regional Council in Plan Change 10,” he said.

“We’re pleased the Court comprehensively rejected the LUC proposal that would have required nitrogen discharge reductions of 80% by dairy farmers and 40% by drystock farmers.  In contrast, the allocation for forestry would have increased six fold. This would have meant that most farmers would have had to lease back nitrogen (that had been transferred to forestry) in order to continue farming.”

Allen said it was never clear what value Rotorua Lakes District Council thought it could add by financing a LUC proposal that favoured one part of its community at the expense of another.

“If I was a Rotorua ratepayer, I would feel very aggrieved that I funded a costly alternative proposal that has not only been found wanting but, as the Court confirmed, would have had highly adverse social and economic effects on the Rotorua community.”

Allen said Federated Farmers agrees LUC is one of the tools in the toolbox for on farm decision support. 

“But we do not support its use to allocate nitrogen and consider that natural capital is about more than just soils.  We are pleased that the court agreed that LUC cannot be relied on as a proxy for natural capital (which was the supposed basis for its proposed use to allocate nitrogen).”

Federated Farmers allocated significant resources to the case because of the dire consequences for farming and the Rotorua community.  The pan sector farming organisation was the only group representing farmers in the matter but acknowledged DairyNZ for its contribution of financial resources and expertise.  DairyNZ have also worked extensively on water quality science and economics in the catchment for many years.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council also opposed the LUC proposal.