A project to find out just how tricky it is going to be for farmers to comply with the new Waikato Regional Council ‘Plan Change One’ has started in the region.
Federated Farmers is co-ordinating the project, which will be the first time the organisation has had time to test a plan, give feedback and press for changes.
The ‘Healthy Rivers On-Farm Project’ will go through the application of the new Plan Change in a practical, on-farm way, using 12 different farmers and farm types as case studies.
“Normally we only find out how much impact a plan change will have, after its been put into regulation,” Federated Farmers Waikato chair Chris Lewis says.
“But done this way, we get to test drive the council’s thinking, and then we get time to gather feedback from our members and go back to the council with solid suggestions for improvements to their plan.”
The project is being jointly funded by Federated Farmers Waikato, Waikato Regional Council, Fonterra, DairyNZ and the Foundation for Arable Research. Of the 12 farms selected, 10 are either all drystock, or a mix of sheep, beef, dairy and arable.
“Another aspect of this is to make all our members in the Waikato and Waipa catchments think about the plan change.
“We need members to understand what it means for their businesses,” Chris says.
Federated Farmers is concerned members living outside the immediate Waikato Federated Farmers province have not heard enough discussion about the plan change.
“Farmers in Rotorua/Taupo and Auckland Federated Farmers’ provinces also need to get up to speed on this process,” Rotorua/Taupo provincial president Alan Wills says.
“The council is trying to give the people affected time to adjust, but there will be people who have not caught up with what’s going on.
“Feds is here to answer questions, help with understanding the project, take feedback and work with people who want to make their own submissions,” Alan says.
Federated Farmers has been working on the implications of the Plan Change as part of the council’s stakeholder consultation group for almost three years.
“Because we’ve been involved and because we’ve done this work in other parts of the country already, we know there is going to be pain for some farmers.
“If we find places where the plan is unworkable we will do everything we can to negotiate for amendments,” Auckland Federated Farmers president Andrew Maclean says.
“That’s why this project is so important, we get to see the impact before the door closes on getting things set up with the most realistic outcomes for everyone involved.”