New accord for farming, forestry

By Lyn Neeson

1 comment
Federated Farmers signs a MOU with Forestry in Wellington. The deal should ensure 'good neighbourly relations'.
Federated Farmers signs a MOU with Forestry in Wellington. The deal should ensure 'good neighbourly relations'.

Like many forestry provinces, Ruapehu is beginning the 'next round' of planting after the first harvest of trees planted in the 1980s.

As with second chances, both forestry and farmers have learned a lot over the last three decades and we didn't want to repeat some past mistakes.

Another compelling factor for the Ruapehu province to push for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between farmers and forestry was the growing trend of hill country sheep and beef farms being converted to forestry.

There was also the opportunity to work with forestry and the councils as we submitted on the district's long term plan.

Initially, setbacks seemed to be the holy grail for our woes. If we could convince the district council to include a brilliant setback from boundaries, all forestry 'problems' would be kept within their boundary.

We argued a good case and the district council agreed, proposing a 25-metre setback.

Of course we were delighted, but the forestry companies immediately opposed and we met in mediation.

Despite them turning up with the big guns and lots of lawyers, and our side arriving in force, we soon understood that, like most 'blanket' rules, a straight 25m setback wouldn't solve all our issues and would be onerous to the forestry landowners.

Imagine if we weren't allowed to farm within 25m of our boundary? They were forced to listen to our problems and seek a solution and we agreed on a rather complicated hybrid, which was reasonable and protected our pasture at its most vulnerable.

The mediation process also gave us the opportunity to create relationships and consider both sides of the fence. Forestry owners had problems with farmers too. We decided the best outcome would be a comprehensive MOU and the first major point would be to improve communication.

One of the big problems both sides had with communication was knowing who to contact and as part of the MOU, Forestry undertook to create a regional scale map that shows the forest owners.

These maps should be held at the regional council offices and be available as PDF on request. If farmers have a problem they can find out whom they have to deal with - simple.

Horizons Regional Council is keen to be part of this positive initiative because it has had to deal with consent issues where spray drift has created problems.

Forestry has also undertaken to contact neighbours on an annual basis and notify them prior to any significant operations in a timely manner, so farmers can consider the implications and manage their farm appropriately.

This requires farmers to supply contact details, which could also be held on the maps at regional council offices. Federated Farmers offered to assist in this using their mapping data base.

If your region has a large forestry industry you should ask your regional or unitary council if they are prepared to hold the maps, contact the forestry companies to create the maps and then provide your contact details.

As the MOU states: It is agreed as a guiding principle, that timely communication is the key to good neighbourly relations, thus enabling both parties to plan well ahead for good outcomes when dealing with operations that may impact on either party's land or business.

And it takes both parties to be prepared to do their part to ensure that the MOU is effective.

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