Freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas because farmers and growers, and their local communities, are already doing the work.

Everyone wants improvement in the water quality of our rivers and lakes but the Government appears to think the way to get there is to insist councils — at significant cost to ratepayers — put in place a whole new regime of plans and rules. Federated Farmers argues we're much better off investing in action on our rivers, not more regulations.

Feds has a simple message for the Government: freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas because farmers and growers, and their local communities, are already doing the work. We have always acknowledged that there are hotspots where more action is required — and that's where we should be concentrating, not with a one size fits all approach.

Latest MfE monitoring data shows we're winning the battle on measures such as water clarity, ammoniacal nitrogen and total phosphorus, but more work is needed on the likes of total nitrogen and E. coli — not least in waterways adjacent to towns and cities in regard to the latter.

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After an outcry from regional New Zealand, the Government has agreed to accept late submissions beyond the initial six week/October 17 deadline. But that's still a ridiculously short time for farmers and industry bodies to read, absorb, research and gather evidence on three very significant regulatory interventions.

Unlike a Select Committee process involving advanced notice of proposed changes to legislation, followed by public hearings, with the Essential Freshwater changes, a group of people assembled by Government are tasked with summarising all submissions, before they are put to Cabinet, to make final decisions. There will be no hearings.

Across New Zealand, the new proposals seek an average 27 per cent cut in nitrogen losses but in some catchments reductions of up to 80 per cent are required. For such huge increases farmers will have no option but to cut livestock numbers (and thus their livelihoods) or shift/sell up to forestry.

It's crucial that farmers use the submission process to tell politicians how these proposals would impact on their families, businesses and communities. Somehow we need to make the politicians understand that if they want farmers to continue to lift their environmental game, sending some broke is not the way to do it.

• Jim Galloway is president of Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay