After three years working collaboratively with industry, environmental and recreational stakeholders, iwi, scientists and other organisations, Federated Farmers backs the third and final Land and Water Forum (LaWF) report, released last month.
The Federation's water and environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie said the report's recommendations set processes for everyone to take the steps toward raising New Zealand's already high level of water quality throughout the country.
"New Zealand still enjoys some of the highest-quality water on earth," Mackenzie says.
"The recommendations give rural and urban communities a pathway to protect this and make improvements."
The aim is to better manage water resources to fulfil the social, economic, environmental and cultural needs of communities, using collaborative processes to set water-quality limits.
"We know the way we farm will need to change and changes are also needed beyond agriculture," Mackenzie says.
"These recommendations cover all water, rural or urban, and we are all in this together."
He said the Federation was concerned some councils were setting limits before the report's release, meaning communities were not being informed about the effects these would have on jobs and living standards.
There needs to be debate and consensus on what are reasonable costs and timeframes, for farmers as well as other sectors, including local councils. Some councils have raised concerns about implementation costs of limits around wastewater. This is why Federated Farmers supports having communities make decisions after being informed about the realistic costs and timeframes for setting and achieving targets, not just for agriculture but across all sectors of society.
The Federation supports recommendations around embedding good management practice, the inclusion of farm environmental plans and, where appropriate, audited self-management in the regulatory process as the preferred method. Mackenzie says these are a more holistic way to address water-quality issues, rather than focussing on nitrate.
"At the heart of the LaWF recommendations is getting communities to use collaborative process in setting water-quality limits."
There needs to be genuine information available about what limits will mean for individual communities so they could make an informed decision on what is feasible and what is not.
"This is about empowering communities to decide where limits should be set, so as not to cause social and economic damage," Mackenzie says.