HortNZ says the plan change that Waikato Regional Council has notified is an improvement on the 2016 proposal but will still affect the local industry’s ability to meet future demand for vegetables.
‘The latest Plan Change 1 (PC1) notification is better because it acknowledges that commercial vegetable production is unique by providing a separate consenting pathway to other farming activities,’ says HortNZ Natural Resources and Environment Manager, Michelle Sands.
‘However, the plan change will still have a negative impact on the Waikato horticulture industry’s ability to meet future demand for vegetables. During hearings, HortNZ demonstrated that some new commercial vegetable production could occur with negligible impact on the broader vision for water quality.
‘But Waikato Regional Council has only allowed for new vegetable production in 13 sub-catchments. As a result, we are concerned about the priority being given to some land uses and the national implications, given growers are already struggling to meet current food demand.
‘For the future of New Zealand’s food security, it is now even more critical to prevent further loss of highly productive land elsewhere in the Waikato region and across New Zealand.’
HortNZ is pleased that PC1 supports growers’ use of audited Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) to demonstrate how they are improving practice and reducing discharges.
‘Critically, FEPs are treated as living documents that can be amended without the need for a new consent,’ says Michelle. ‘This allows growers to modify FEPs to ensure they are suitable for the characteristics of individual farms.
‘While there have been many gains in PC1, clarity is still needed to ensure commercial vegetable growers can rotate crops within and between sub-catchments. Rotation between different land parcels is a common practice in horticulture and is fundamental to plant and soil health.’
Submitters on PC1 can appeal the decision, the deadline for which is 17 August. HortNZ will be appealing aspects of the decision. If you would like to provide HortNZ with input, please email Lucy Deverall by 8 July.