Conor English: The future ain't what it used to be

By Conor English


American baseball coach Yogi Berra famously said "the future ain't what it used to be". When it comes to water in New Zealand, he's right. Right now, everything to do with water is at play. The laws and rules around its ownership, allocation, management, quality and storage are all under review.

What happens in the next few months will determine the next 100 years. This is complex, so we must get it right. There are huge risks, not only for the farming community, but for all New Zealanders. We care about the environment and a prosperous future. We need both.

The Government has recognised the importance of water to the economy with the allocation of $435 million to water storage infrastructure.

Alongside this, there are local government reforms seeking to change councils' focus, while the Resource Management Act is also to undergo further amendments.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) on fresh water management was passed last year. The Land and Water Forum is trying to interpret it to inform further law change.

In the meantime, Horizons Regional Council, Otago Regional Council and Environment Canterbury have produced plan changes seeking to implement the NPS. Despite best efforts, it could be said none have got it right. Diffuse nutrient discharges are not the same as point source discharges and the Overseer management system is not a water meter.

Federated Farmers is involved in all of this. The focus needs to be on finding solutions, based on sound science and profitable and sustainable farming.

Farmers are custodians of the land and water, harvesting for the benefit of today and future generations. They want to leave it better than they found it.

While some still need to pull their socks up, farmers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars putting in effluent systems, excluding stock from waterways, measuring fertiliser and investing in more efficient irrigation. That investment has allowed export growth, earning money to pay the bills for hospitals, schools and other services. It provides jobs and has improved the environment.

Water-quality measures must include all those whose discharge into rivers, including places like Palmerston North.

There is no free lunch. When it comes to water, it is critical our whole society gets the balance right, does not overreact and throw the baby out with the bathwater. The future may not be what it used to be, but we need profitable and sustainable farming for the benefit of all New Zealand.

- Hamilton News

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