The Sustainable Land Use Initiative is excellent value but Horizons Regional Council needs to cut its overambitious programme in other areas, Tim Matthews says.
Matthews is a veteran submitter on council plans, and spoke on his personal submission and a Federated Farmers submission to Horizons' 2021-31 Long Term Plan this month. The submissions were among 435 the regional council received.
Federated Farmers was pleased Horizons is keeping the Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) going for another 10 years. In it, farmers receive plans that find ways to reduce erosion on their worst land and increase productivity on the rest.
The initiative is funded by government and Horizons rates, and farmers pay a share towards making improvements.
Councillor Weston Kirton asked Matthews whether the SLUI was value for money. He said there was a two-year waiting list for new plans.
Matthews, who has had two farm plans done, said sediment runoff, not nitrogen or phosphorous, was the main environmental problem where he farmed.
"The SLUI plan is far better at targeting the actual problem. It's a wonderful idea," he said.
But the council's overall plan was too ambitious, he said. He doubted whether Horizons had the staff or resources needed to implement it. He advocated cutting or pruning, and concentrating effort on the freshwater work required by government.
Federated Farmers, and a majority of other submitters, would prefer the council to rate for implementing new freshwater standards and borrow the $4 million needed to revise the One Plan.
After reducing the council's own greenhouse gas emissions, climate change should be left to government and individuals, Matthews said. About half the submitters agreed with that.
Funding that pays for Māori engagement could also be left to government. There was $3.5 million budgeted for that on freshwater alone, Matthews said.
"Could the Crown fund it, as a Treaty obligation?"
His projected rate increase was "savage", because the land values of his two Rangitīkei properties had increased 56 per cent and 60 per cent. The revaluation was based on the popularity of hill country for forestry and beekeeping, and on just a few sales.
The council should look at a way to smooth rates across districts, Matthews said, and that could require lateral thinking.
"It's difficult for you to manage, and for us as ratepayers."
Farmers already pay more rates than most property owners, because rates are based on the value of their land.
Matthews asked for an urgent review of the Turakina River Scheme to which he contributes via a targeted rate. The review had been promised for five years, he said.
No work had been done in the river's upper reaches where 40 per cent of its ratepayers lived, Matthews said.
He was asked whether he agreed with the 80-20 split on rating for flood control schemes. People who directly benefit from the scheme pay for 80 per cent, and the whole region pays the other 20 per cent.
He said he wasn't sure the rest of the region should pay for Palmerston North's "expensive" stopbanks.
"It's important that the cost of these schemes can be explained to ratepayers as being of value," he said.
Federated Farmers would like Horizons' One Plan revised to better recognise the good work farmers do, and their role in food production.
Whanganui president Mike Cranstone would like the districts' emissions profiles revised using a split gas approach, rather than the present approach, which converts all emissions into carbon equivalents.
Federated Farmers is worried about the spread of old man's beard out of Rangitīkei and into Whanganui, Tararua and Manawatu.
Matthews said it had the potential to spread into fenced riparian margins.
"I back onto the Turakina River. It's a real concern for us."
Councillor Nicola Patrick said old man's beard was a tension point for council. It wanted to put in more resource but didn't want to increase rates.
The council's deliberations on the plan will be held on Wednesday, May 26, and it is scheduled for adoption on June 22.