Comment: The Government needs to extend the consultation time frame on its freshwater policy so farmers can actually attend and have their say, writes National's spokesman for primary industries Todd Muller.
At a time when farmers are busy calving and lambing, they're also being tasked with dealing with potentially the biggest upheaval of their way of life in decades.
The Government's recently announced freshwater standards are hugely transformative on the primary sector.
There are very real concerns that the onerous nitrogen reductions highlighted in the document will be too difficult for farmers to feasibly achieve, and they will be forced out of business.
Local Government New Zealand's modelling suggested that 68 per cent of sheep and beef farming land in the Waikato catchment would have to convert to forestry as a result.
I think those who are going to be at the coalface of these changes deserve the right to be fully heard and consulted upon.
Currently the consultation process is a farce.
Less than a week after the report has been released and during the busiest time of year for farmers we're seeing public meetings take place.
This is cynical timing and has been decided upon by a Government whose mind is made up, and doesn't want to face the opposition it deserves.
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Farmers should have a reasonable amount of time to get their heads around the changes being made and these meetings should be scheduled to ensure the biggest turnout possible, not when those affected are too busy to attend.
It's this lack of information and transparency that breeds fear amongst rural communities.
Interest rates are at record lows, dairy prices are above historical averages, and the weather has been pretty good.
In many ways farmers should be optimistic. But instead confidence is at all-time lows. This is a direct result of the uncertainty and pressure heaped on to farmers by the coalition Government.
The Ministers in charge of these proposals should be on the ground hearing from New Zealanders who are concerned, instead they're nowhere to be seen and are sending officials to weather the storm for them.
David Parker made his position quite clear when his response to legitimate questioning on the topic was to fob it off and say "just trust me".
The 23,000 farming families whose way of life is directly affected by these changes deserve better than this.
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Water is both a critical strategic asset and a source of recreation in New Zealand, and we all know it must be abundant, healthy, clean and cost effective.
But we must have our eyes open when implementing regulations and ensure they do not have perverse effects on our primary sector and wider economy.
National established a comprehensive National Policy Statement while in Government and worked alongside our primary sector to clean our waterways, which have been steadily improving, as shown by the Government's own data from Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA).
This analysis of national river quality trends from 2008 to 2017 showed that for eight out of the nine water quality indicators reported on, more monitored sites were improving than degrading.
The consultation process surrounding these changes is cynical, dismissive, but sadly predictable of this Government.
Rural New Zealand deserves access to accurate information and should be able to ask the tough questions.
The Government needs to extend the consultation time frame and ensure that public meetings take place at times that encourage maximum attendance, our farmers deserve it.