West Otago farmer Bill McCall says farmers are just as well-qualified to have input into the Government's proposed changes in environmental and water policy as the people who wrote it.

A roadshow to discuss the proposed changes was held in Gore yesterday.

About 350 people attended the event, hosted by the Ministry for the Environment.

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Speaking during open questions, McCall said although the proposal had been put together by experts, he challenged farmers to have their say.

"You're just as qualified as all those scientists.

"You're experts in food and fibre producing, so make submissions."

Part of the new policy would stop in the short term land being used for other purposes.

This "hold the line" policy would stifle innovation in the industry.

Southland Federated Farmers vice-president Bernadette Hunt said no-one knew what the result of the new proposal was going to be.

"A lot of the concern that a lot of the people in this room and everywhere around the country have with this is that there are huge unknowns about what the consequences of this are going to be.

"Questions like what are we going to be required to do on our own farm about nitrogen, let alone sediment or any of those other things."


Listen to Jamie Mackay's interview with Bernadette Hunt about the meeting on The Country:

Minister of Agriculture Damian O'Connor said he believed many farmers were already making changes which would result in improved water quality.

"Most of the young farmers I speak to up and down this country buy into the need for us to have integrity in our farming systems," O'Connor said.

Ministry for the Environment freshwater policy chief adviser Brian Smith spoke about the aim of the proposals.

"The first was no further degradation of our waterways ... the second was to put us on a pathway to restore our waterways to the condition that New Zealanders want them to be in in a generation ... and the third key objective was to address allocation," Smith said.

The official closing date for submissions is 5pm, October 17.

Submissions will be accepted for a further two weeks beyond that date, until October 31.