The South Island's West Coast is an area of rugged beauty that has long survived the challenges thrown at it, through extremes in weather and physical isolation.

Yet, far from being a bunch of old- timers wary of life's changes, Coasters are, in reality, a stalwart bunch, not great in number but great in their ability to adapt to survive.

While mining runs deep in the veins of the Coast, reductions in the world's coal demand and industry changes following the Pike River tragedy added further economic challenges to the equation.

This has required the small, but resilient, population base to again reset its compass. According to BERL's Economic Indicators 2013, agriculture is now the region's fastest-growing industry and the Coast's biggest employer.


But along with any success comes a new set of challenges and, for the Coast, these now predominantly take the shape of environmental obstacles.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on how the Coast should look. Yet the environmentalists' vision of 'a land frozen in time' doesn't put food on the table, pay the bills, keep the kids in school or provide a viable future for the community.

For the Coast to have that future, we must find a way for it to grow, provide and still be both economically and environmentally sustainable.

The West Coast province of Federated Farmers has spent many years investing enormous time and energy into standing up for the rural community and, by extension, the whole of the region. It has put years of effort into the West Coast Regional Council's regulatory framework for schedule 1 and 2 wetlands.

Efforts have ranged from consulting, submitting and presenting at hearings to drawn-out work in Environment Court appeals and mediation.

While it has been a huge battle to get to this point, an eventual outcome has been reached, with the council's focus now being on only ecologically- significant wetlands, with rules allowing for appropriate development and provision for existing use.

In reality, most wetlands in close proximity to pastoral farms on the West Coast have remained in good condition, despite being accessible by livestock, feral deer and pigs for almost 150 years, and in earlier times by moa. In fact, light grazing within wetlands seems to be acceptable to ecologists, so long as the grazing is not intense.

On the West Coast, 6700 hectares of private land falls within schedule 2 wetlands. This land has not been assessed, and includes areas of pasture that are regarded to have little ecological value. One of the key issues for all West Coast wetlands is flood management.

Keeping stock out of these areas can result in a lack of creek bed maintenance, leading to more frequent flooding, erosion, as well as damage to land and infrastructure.

This problem is heightened on the West Coast, given its high rainfall and propensity to flood. Pests are another significant issue for the West Coast.

Despite the best efforts to manage a transition to forest cover, the wet climate and favourable growing conditions mean that pest plants will be a major problem on any area retired from grazing.

To counter such issues we need to think about how we adapt and rise to these challenges. Intelligent regulation isn't about protecting everything.

There needs to be a practical awareness of the consequences, both intended and unintended, of regulating proven land management practices, so we can find the win-wins.
The focus for the West Coast province of Federated Farmers will be to work closely with the Department of Conservation.

This will allow consideration of trade-offs between lower value land that can be leased out for grazing and areas of significant indigenous vegetation, or wetlands on private land that require higher levels of protection and enhancement, beyond what private landowners can sustain.