NEW ZEALAND – Farmers on the east coast of the North Island, only just recovering from several seasons of drought, could be dealt a crippling blow if a planned Government policy on managing biodiversity goes ahead unchanged.
“Farmers care about biodiversity but what we’re up against is poor policy making that makes the importance of farm pasture a distant second to regenerating native scrubland,” says Hamish Cave, Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa provincial president.
“The Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) proposed national policy statement (NPS) on managing native biodiversity sounds innocent enough, but it would force councils to introduce rules limiting our ability to clear regenerating scrubland.
“I’m not being melodramatic, but this could shut down farming not just on the East Coast but in other parts of New Zealand.
“Someone has not thought through this very well. We need to clear regenerating scrubland from pasture because that’s what our stock feed upon and it’s our stock that helps pay for the likes of healthcare and education.
“The flow on effect to support businesses could be significant over time, leading to further depopulation of rural towns much like Wairoa.
“While we hear about supporting an export led recovery from one part of Government, another part seems hell-bent on shutting down farming.
“Late last week, 90 farmers met in Wairoa to discuss this NPS as they were worried. This follows on from a similar meeting in Taranaki earlier that week, where, I understand, 70 farmers expressed the same concerns.
“Farmers care about protecting quality native vegetation but quality and not quantity is the key word here.
“Federated Farmers was a driving force behind the QEII National Trust’s formation 34 years ago. That now has more than 111,000 hectares voluntarily protected – not far off Egmont and Tongariro National Park’s combined.
“Policy makers have to understand that farms, just like cities, are modified working landscapes. We must balance protection with productive sustainable farming and on the east coast, this means farmers having to manage regenerating manuka and kanuka.
“It’s time MfE officials put on their gumboots and talked to farmers about what will work and what won’t. It’s also time we get due recognition for being the front line fighting weed and animal pests that provides real benefits to our native fauna and flora.
“Gisborne-Wairoa farmers have given me a strong mandate to oppose this NPS and we’ll be taking this mandate direct to Government,” Mr Cave concluded.
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