Freshwater Reform 2013 - Midstream of Change

Farmer Freddy learns about fresh water resources

“Hey Dad, are you OK? You seem like some thing’s bothering you,” asks Pebbles.

Freddy looking up from the newspaper says,  “Oh good, you have come by for tea, Pebbles. I’m just looking at the news about water reform in New Zealand. This all seems very confusing and it worries me. I think they’re making this water thing bigger than Ben Hur.”

“Fresh water is important Dad, but what’s got you worried? I know that there’s been some talk about freshwater resources but not a lot of the details are available yet,” Pebbles comment while pouring glasses of water for them both.

“As you know Pebbles, water is a vital resource for our operations here,” Freddy sighs. “This article seems to be saying that the changes will include planning for water use as a community, something about “National objectives” and “setting limits”. Our bottom line is that we need water for our stock. If the law changes and imposes restrictions on us, it will affect our herd and our livelihood. I can’t imagine anything worse than having a community decide how I use water here on the farm. And what about limits and National objectives? I just want our stock to be watered and healthy.”

“Well Dad, that is true, but you can’t start putting carts before horses,” reassured Pebbles. “Not only is the government in the consultation phase of these law changes, but you have to keep in mind the overall objectives of the changes.”

“OK, then do you know what’s going on with all this?” asks Freddy with resignation. “You seem to keep up with all these sorts of changes.”

“Well not exactly, but I know a little. Basically, there are elements of the Resource Management Act relating to fresh water in New Zealand that are in the mid-stream of change.  These changes are intended to improve the safety and quality of fresh water throughout the country. The idea of planning for water use as community is intended to prevent over allocation or unfairness due to a “first-in-first served” process. So what the government is hoping to do is develop broad guidelines for the results that they want to see and then establish some processes to achieve those goals.”

“But Pebbles,” Freddy insists, “it says here, that there are going to be changes to how farmers can use their land. Will I have to change my farming practices? How long will I have to make the changes?”

“First of all, the changes are still in a proposal and consultation phase, so there is still time to see where the changes will go.  However, the Ministry for Primary Industries has said that the key initiatives are going to focus on developing National Templates for water applications; changes to consenting procedures; developing National objectives for water; and developing a collaborative process for water management. So this should create a better overall structure, so that there aren’t different standards for different regions.

“Wasn’t the fencing program enough to protect streams? I know that miles of fences were put in place to keep cattle out of streams.”

“I think that the fences were a good start Dad, but this round of reforms is also looking at other pressures on fresh water. These pressures include consumption, use and activities that could change the quality of the water.  As more information becomes available, our ability to understand resources also changes. So it won’t just be the farmers who are going to see changes, but all primary industries and probably even some other water users. The government is seeking a more collaborative planning process so that New Zealand can make the best possible decisions with the best available information.  Better fresh water for New Zealand is better for everyone.”

“It looks like the changes are coming one way or another…”

“The bottom line Dad, is that we need to watch this space. The government is committed to making changes that will affect everyone in New Zealand. But for now, let’s have a glass of wine.”

“Sounds good, Pebbles,” says Freddy as he gets up. “I’ll pour.”

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 


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