Mark Cameron, ACT’s Northland candidate
Mark Cameron, ACT’s Northland candidate CREDIT: Getty

Freshwater reforms: Far out, what a fiasco || An Op-Ed by Mark Cameron, ACT’s Northland candidate and rural spokesperson

Opinion 02/09/2020

This is an op-ed written by Mark Cameron, ACT’s Northland candidate and rural spokesperson.

Freshwater reforms: Far out, what a fiasco 

OPINION: As a dairy farmer I know first-hand the impacts the Government’s Freshwater reforms are having and I really feel for my mates down south. 

Otago and Southland farmers face unique challenges. The winter grazing regulations means someone can come on to your farm and prosecute you for a law that's impossible to comply with. 

Earlier this week the National Party said the reforms ‘should be gone by lunchtime’ before walking that position back. Well they had it right the first time.   

Farmers got us through lockdown. And not just lockdown. Farmers have contributed to our economic health for generations. The Government is now repaying them with tougher regulations. 

The Ministry for the Environment’s analysis says the regulations will result in job losses and mental health pressures. Farmers face enough stress without that added pressure. New costs on farmers will be passed through to consumers, and ratepayers will be required to pick up the new costs faced by councils. 

The economy is in recession. Now is the worst possible time to be creating new uncertainty for the rural sector. 

We should instead be focused on urban waterways – like Hobson Bay in Remuera where E. Coli levels are 700 times the acceptable level – rather than putting more pressure on the rural sector at a time of great economic uncertainty. 

The major issue in urban areas is that councils have let existing networks run down to the point that sewage regularly spills into harbours and streams. But councils have resource consents which means they don’t even have to report these spills to the public. ACT will stop councils from obtaining these consents and require them to play by the same rules businesses and farmers do. 

The RMA and new freshwater rules are being used as blunt tools to force farmers and landowners to abandon farm environmental plans and submit to a government plan which sidelines the wishes of local communities and the businesses. 

Rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach from Wellington, ACT will reform the RMA to put farm environmental plans back into the hands of farmers and regional councils and to deliver the environmental outcomes which meet the expectations of communities and consumers. 

The rural sector has been one of the whipping boys of this Government, with the passage of the Zero Carbon Act and now freshwater regulations. There hasn’t been enough recognition of the environmental work that farmers do and the importance of food production to our communities.

This is an op-ed written by Mark Cameron, ACT’s Northland candidate and rural spokesperson.