Research published by Local Government New Zealand show the enormous impact on land use the government’s freshwater proposals will really have, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“If implemented, these proposals are going to see farmers in the Waikato go out of business and their land be converted into a sea of trees.
“According to the modelling, sheep and beef farming is expected to fall by 68 per cent, while dairy would be reduced by 13 per cent. Meanwhile, plantation forestry would boom by an astonishing 160 per cent.
“Plantation forestry would then account for over 50 per cent of farmland in Waikato, as these onerous regulations make sheep and beef farming completely untenable.
“We can only get improved water quality and prosperous rural communities if farmer can see a way to farm their way to better environmental outcomes. These proposals take farmers’ options off the table and are a disaster for the Waikato.
“There has been huge investment made and improvements are occurring with Land, Air, Water Aotearoa’s data showing improvement in eight out of nine water quality indicators across our rivers.
“There is more to be done but these changes only take the profitability out of dairy, which therefore means there is less money for environmental investment.”
Todd says the farmer’s voice has to be heard in this debate or we are all in deep trouble. This goes way beyond the kitchen table of our local farmers as it will cut deep into the economy of Hamilton and surrounding towns.
“When Local Government feels the need to send a shot across the bow of Central Government the Minister must take notice. These proposals will have dire consequences for rural New Zealand.”
The NZIER report, commissioned by Forest and Bird, Greenpeace and Fish and Game, says "due to the relatively small size of the dairy industry, the reforms are unlikely to be major at the national level, and not felt for many years due to the long lead-in times proposed".
It conceded a reduction in GDP from intensive dairy would have uneven local effects, given the regional distribution of the sector.
The report comes as farming groups lobby the Government for a longer consultation extension than the two-week one it has been granted.
On Friday, the consultation period was extended from October 17 to allow submissions to be accepted until October 31.