The prospect of all Whanganui hill-country farmers having to fence off their waterways by 2030 will have many in the industry pondering their next moves.

This scenario has the potential to sink even the most buoyant of sheep and beef farmer bank accounts.

It's fair to say that this conundrum has been looming large on the horizon for a while now. With the dairy sector reportedly having already fenced off 95per cent of their waterways the onus is now switching to others in the agricultural industry to follow suit.

Waterways larger than 1metre wide and 30cm deep, and running most of the year, will either have to be fenced off with a three-wire fence allowing sheep to graze down to the water's edge, an electric fence or a standard eight-wire fence that excludes all farm animals from the water's edge.


This proposition creates a few issues with animal welfare and of the maintenance of what was pasture land down to the edge of the waterway.

As good as they are, not every farmer can have a stock water reticulation system on their property, due to practical logistics or simply the cost of such a system.

With on-farm returns not always favourable and tending to be on the underside a majority of the time, farmers are scrutinising every cost closely and they need to be sure of the returns of such an outlay. Ideally a stock water system works best from a reliable spring where the water is cleaner.

If a farmer chooses to go with the traditional eight-wire fence, blocking off all stock from the water's edge, it raises problems with the control of weeds. Any pasture that has been consistently grazed is generally free of weeds but once it's returned to an uncontrolled state the pasture is overrun with a mass of weeds such as blackberry, gorse and Old Man's Beard.

So to think there are people out there that want every water body, large or small, fenced off - what a logistical nightmare!