I am against heavy-handed regulation. It is expensive, inefficient and, of course, bureaucratic. It does nothing to build good working relationships between councils and their ratepayers. To date, I have seen no evidence that heavy-handed regulation actually improves water quality. What improves water quality is enthusiastic landowners working with positive and progressive councils to make a difference.
I am for a growing economy, offering jobs for its young and increasing incomes for its people. Farming has a big part to play in this. I am also for environmentally sustainable farming. Profitability and sustainability go hand-in-hand. A bit like councils and rates; you cannot have one without the other!
Yes, we do need to do better with our water and our environment, but one thing I do see in my role is the encouraging progress that farmers are making. Attitudes have changed and action is being taken. Sure, things may not be happening as quickly as some would wish, but changing habits and actions does take time. What I know for certain is this whole water issue is now front and centre for all farmers; it is certainly our number one focus here at Federated Farmers.
This is one of my issues with Horizons Regional Council, the One Plan and the very disappointing decisions that have come from the Environment Court. The One Plan has now been under action for longer than I have been a farmer. While One Plan has been working its way through disputes and courts, costing millions of dollars, farmers have been getting on with improving practices around water and water management.
Just look at Taranaki Regional Council - a model for innovative, non-regulatory, environmental improvement. I am told the region's riparian planting programme has seen over 2 million plants in the ground, with a further 500,000 native plants ordered for next year's planting. All this without any heavy-handed regulation and without the considerable costs that go with consents and bureaucracy.
Does the neighbouring council and the Environment Court not realise things have changed? Attitudes and actions have moved on. Farmers now get it and want to work with progressive councils to do better. Heavy-handed regulation is not needed, is not welcome and is not sensible.