Local elections are coming up and Federated Farmers reminds members how important it is to vote.

The quality of local government in rural communities can mean the difference between dodgy roads and safer ones, thousands of dollars in rates, and the kind of regulation you face on-farm.

Councillors have an important role in influencing the development and implementation of regional and district plans.

Councillors who know and understand farming, or who recognised the practical need to engage with farmers on plan development and implementation, are critical to good resource management.

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Central Hawke's Bay voters have a special opportunity as the District Plan is part way through development, and councillors will influence the regulation within it.

Farmers are disproportionately affected by regional and district plans, because it is over farmland that resources of interest have been preserved, such as native bush, scenic landscapes, heritage sites, streams and wetlands, which are long-gone from more developed and urbanised areas.

While the RMA applies nationally and there is a lot of case law, councils still have considerable discretion over how policies and plans are developed, and how they are implemented and enforced.

Plans are becoming more complicated and with more and more rules and regulations over multiple chapters, pages of maps, and stacks of appendices.

Regulatory double-up is a big problem. Councils are regulating activities that are already regulated by other means, resulting in farmers having to please two masters.

Examples are: health and safety rules around power lines that are already regulated by the Code of Practice for Electrical Safety Distances; GMOs already regulated by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act; rules for areas of significant indigenous vegetation already protected by a QEII covenant.

Federated Farmers has put together a comprehensive booklet on all things local government of interest to farmers: Platform: Feds on Local Government.

If you are a candidate or a voter, this booklet is for you to read and ponder election promises and what they do or don't do for farming.

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Don't underestimate the power of democracy. Make sure you vote in council elections.

• Rhea Dasent is a senior policy adviser for Federated Farmers