A Small Block Owner Perspective on the Draft Rules

A Small Block Owner Perspective on the Draft Rules

I’m Graham West, a Small Block Owner (SBO) with 20ha on the eastern side of the Lake Rotorua catchment, primarily running dairy grazers plus forest plantations, and native bush. Like most of you I have a family that enjoy the country life, two kids, two pet cows and two goats. I’ve been interested in the Lake Rotorua catchment nitrate issue for almost the last 10 years as a scientist at Scion and stakeholder. My early introduction to this issue was with Paul Dell and Ric Vallance and those early meetings were very intense and passionate and taught me that only cool heads and reason would minimise the angst and cost we were about to go through.

I was asked to join Don Hammond and help represent the SBOs at the Stakeholder Advisory Group (StAG) meetings in February 2015. StAG had been going for 2 years by then and had progressed through many issues and under the Oturoa Agreement (2013) had agreed on a time frame (20 years) and through the “Integrated Framework” had agreed how much land owners will reduce their N discharge by (140t/yr) and absorb the cost. The clear challenge was how to allocate that reduction and there was considerable work in progress on allocation options and modelling to understand the economic impact.

Although the SBOs had been lumped in with the drystock farmers, the key to this progress was that the big issues needed to be addressed first – how do we reach the target reductions without a significant impairment of the economy in the catchment causing a ripple of social impact through the community. The money brought into the community from producing milk, meat, wool and wood, ultimately provides jobs in the service industries and earns export dollars that buys our consumables like clothes and petrol.

Considerable progress had been made because a spirit of collaboration and trust was developed at STAG meetings and principles of fairness, sharing the pain, no windfalls, and not to personalise issues, was agreed. Meetings were monthly (have now held over 30), open to the public, and minutes and presentations on an open web site.

So how will the new rules affect SBOs (<40ha)? There is no simple answer. There are approximate 600 small blocks in the catchment with huge differences between them. The suggested discharge allowances, and ranges within them, will allow considerable variation between properties based on their history and economic circumstance. We will have until 2032 to achieve the Nitrogen Discharge Allowance if we are required to reduce.

I prefer to work within the current StAG process and influence what we can, because ultimately it comes down to the fact that if one sector wants more, the other sectors will have less. Litigation will be costly and our rates bill will increase with every interest group that demands BOPRC’s attention. I urge SBOs to engage with the process but read the large body of material (mostly on the web) that backgrounds the decisions so far, before making decisions. If you are a small block owner, I would like to know your information needs and will help as best I can. Contact me at