Wanganui Federated Farmers and Beef+Lamb New Zealand are on the same page when it comes to submissions on the Government's draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB).
National Policy Statements are a tool the Government uses to set regulatory requirements across the country. The NPS for biodiversity is of particular relevance to sheep and beef farmers given the significant stands of native vegetation on farms — some 2.8 million hectares according to research by the University of Canterbury.
Under the draft statement local councils will be required to map all significant natural areas (SNAs) within five years against a new standard criteria, whereas previously there was more flexibility for how this was defined by each community.
Wanganui Federated Farmers provincial president Mike Cranstone said it was yet another important issue facing farmers and it was essential they had input into the debate.
"Federated Farmers, in conjunction with B+LNZ, is hosting a workshop in Whanganui at the Kingsgate Hotel on February 18 between 4pm and 6pm," Cranstone said.
"We will be highlighting and discussing aspects of the drat policy that affect us as farmers and we will be showing farmers how best to make submissions. At least the Government has given more lead in time to make submissions this time with the March 14 deadline."
B+LNZ say there is a lot in the NPS on Indigenous Biodiversity that they agree with, including its intent, but there are some areas of concern that require changes if farming is to coexist with biodiversity. B+LNZ is working with officials to clarify the intent of the policy.
"It is Important for farmers to be able to continue scrub cutting as routine maintenance of their productive pasture," Cranstone warned.
"Farmers need to understand what might be required for them to prove that it is an existing and ongoing activity.
"Of particular concern is areas of young manuka that is being utlilised for manuka honey — will farmers retain the ability to clear this land in the future?
"Farmers also need better access to 1990 land cover mapping and know whether land retired will be eligible for carbon credits.
"Costs and capability of councils to achieve mapping is a concern, is it taking resources away from achieving protection?
"Interestingly, Lawa (Land Ari Water Aotearoa) data shows the area of native vegetation has been stable. For the small percentage of vascular plants on the endangered list, DOC is unable to identify where they are. Costs are being imposed on councils for work that should be done by central government.
"The best approach is to share the goal with people, explain what they can do, and partner with them to make progress. Lack of knowledge rather than motivation is the biggest hindrance," Cranstone said.
It is estimated that 200,000 hectares has been gifted by farmers to the QE11 trust to protect its conservation values for perpetuity.
Horizons also partners with landholders to fence and protect areas of native bush.
One million hectares of New Zealand's native vegetation is on farmland.
"The responsibility to be the guardian of this can be compared to other community service roles. It is a privilege, but can be onerous in terms of time and cost to one's business.
Farmers have a responsibility as custodians of this country's treasure, but their ongoing contributions in doing this role deserve recognition," Cranstone said.