It really gets my goat that wetlands have disappeared due to historical land use practices that enabled our society to develop — yes, our towns and cities too. Yet the finger of blame is only pointed at farmers.
The best thing about being a farmer is all the regulation. I cannot get enough. Like most farmers I am filled with delight each year when our councils begin consultation on their annual plan or other plan change.
But what has filled me with delight this time, the real standout, is new rules in the proposed regional plan that expect farmers to become ecologists and identify all wetlands on their land in order to fence them off.
The thing is, the council has refused to map even significant wetlands because they say identifying them is too hard. The council couldn't spot a wetland in a police lineup, yet farmers are somehow expected to do it.
Read more from Federated Farmers here.
Farmers are also expected to figure out what kind of wetland they have. There are six options to choose from in the proposed regional plan. So that wet or boggy area on your farm could be farmland, but it might also be a wetland, or a natural wetland, or a constructed wetland, or an induced wetland, or a reverted wetland, or, heaven forbid, a significant wetland.
I'm told by the council that in some cases it might also be considered a lake.
To further complicate the situation, the type of wetland you have might change over time. So if you do a good job and construct a wetland that, in addition to trapping nutrients and sediment, creates habitat for lots of indigenous aquatic plants, the council might one day consider it a natural wetland and impose stricter rules.
This creates an incredibly frustrating and farcical situation for farmers.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but my hope is that more regulation at a national level will save us from this nonsense. Central government is about to weigh in on wetlands in the form of a draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPS). They've obviously got the message that local authorities could use some help.
It's really easy to take a NIMBY approach to these wetland rules, as 85 per cent of us live in towns and don't have wetlands on our property. It really gets my goat that wetlands have disappeared due to historical land use practices that enabled our society to develop — yes, our towns and cities too. Yet the finger of blame is only pointed at farmers.
I'd like to see a bit more of a collective ownership of these issues. Oh, and a whole heap more clarity in our regulations would help everyone involved.