Fish & Game New Zealand notes the announcement today that the Government and the intensive agriculture leadership have reached a ‘historic consensus’ and are exploring using a formal sector-government agreement instead of bringing agriculture into the ETS.
"Using mandatory Farm Environment Plans to tackle Climate Change could have a positive impact in also improving water quality," Fish & Game New Zealand spokesperson Richard Cosgrove says.
"We cautiously welcome today’s announcement. However, this puts a major onus on regional councils to enforce Farm Environment Plans in a way that they have not previously.
"The Farm Environment Plans must be properly designed, nationally consistent, to the necessary high standard and be independently audited.
"The intensive agriculture leadership now has an opportunity to provide leadership on the issue by putting a line in the sand and saying to all farmers ‘this is the national minimum standard,’ it is compulsory and the more you can do to soar above it, the better for the industry and the environment.
"This should be then followed through with enforcement by regional councils.
"However, we do greet this news with some caution. Farm plans have been around since the 1940s, when farmers and councils used them in catchment management - particularly with soil conservation programmes. Since the early 1990s, these farm plans have expanded to address a range of farm improvements including water quality, waste, biodiversity, animal welfare and riparian zones.
"These past plans have often been poorly designed and have allowed intensive agriculture to destroy water quality across New Zealand. This has happened because regional councils have failed to carry out their legal job of protecting the environment for future generations.
"It is now up to the intensive agriculture leadership and for regional councils to prove that they are serious about this plan and that they are willing no longer protect to poor performing farmers.
"Kiwis expect to be able to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams. Over 80 per cent of New Zealanders are calling for change and saying water quality must be protected. It's time that we all work together so that we can ensure that we stop further degradation of our environment."