Thursday 5 October 2017

In the words of Rachel Hunter - it won't happen overnight, but it will happen...

Wasn’t the whole election one big roller coaster?  If we have learnt one this from this whole affair, it is that we are all very passionate about our water resources – not necessarily for the same reasons, but passionate none the less.

Regardless of who ends up running the country (at the time of penning this blog, Winnie was still  courting both the National and Labour parties), I think it is clear that public opinion will ensure that water management and associated policies will be addressed is some way, shape or form by the incoming government.  Given this, I think it is important (and timely) to look back and acknowledge where we have got too in relation to this, but also to look forward at where we can still go.  

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) and Regional Plans
Most regional councils now either have notified or operative plans which outline their methods for addressing water quantity and water quality.  While no two plans are alike, the NPSFM requires limits are set, therefore, all plans do just that – they set allocation limits for surface and groundwater resources, as well as water quality limits.  It is the latter which takes various forms including property limits and/or catchment limits using Overseer, in stream water quality limits, and the development of the Good Management Practice (GMP) framework.    Many councils have also adopted the use of audited Farm Environment Plans to be able to monitor, measure, report and ensure that farms are meeting their environmental obligations. 

As with anything in life, good things take time.  Councils are in the process of rolling out and implementing these plans now.  The effects will not be immediate, but they need to be given a chance to actually work. 

It must also be remembered that for many areas, it is as much about maintaining the already good water quality that exists – this is not allowed to deteriorate.  For those few areas where improvement is needed, the plans bite much harder, and that it totally appropriate.

The fact that all of this has occurred seems to have been completely overlooked by many, and it’s not just politicians I’m referring too. 

How are we meeting our environmental obligations already?
Figures provided by Irrigation New Zealand show that since 2011:
  • $10 million invested in audited Farm Environment Plans;   
  • $600 million invested by existing irrigators upgrading to modern, efficient irrigation systems;
  • $18 million invested in precision irrigation technologies;
  • $15 million invested in installing irrigation decision-making technologies;
  • More than 24,000 kilometres of our waterways have already been fenced off to exclude stock at a cost of $220 million. 

As we continue to meet our environmental obligations, you can only expect these numbers to increase.  It is noted that this expenditure is all on farm, reinforcing the point that water quality will be addressed at the farm level. 

Looking Forward
Regional Councils need to continue to implement their plans. This may seem like an obvious thing to state, but it’s true nonetheless.  Consistent messages and enforcement from the regulatory bodies will be a must.

I believe that many farmers are on board with GMP (the on-farm practices) despite still being largely ignorant or merely confused by the new environmental regulations.  Education is still key to the success of this stuff, and that has to come from all involved – banks, valuers, real estate agents, farm advisors, customers… anybody involved with the farm.  And, many farmers are being innovative and taking up technology where it is available.  You only have to look at the statistics above regarding the investment to date in irrigation upgrades and precision irrigation technologies.  

And last, but not least, time, time, time.  To quote Rachel Hunter from her Pantene ad, “it doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen”, and it is happening.  Get on board, and keep it up.

 By Keri Johnston, Irricon Resource Solutions
Phone 0272202425 or email