Water Quality Consultation

18 Oct 2019 Water Quality Consultation image

On 31 October the Government’s current round of consultation on freshwater quality will close.  The full details of this are on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.  The proposed changes directly affect both urban and rural New Zealand, so you should all have your say. 

One of the most significant aspects of this consultation is that it aims to stop water quality getting worse and continues our journey towards better water quality. 
The positive objectives of the consultation documents are contradicted by imposing hard-line restrictions.  All of us can support and agree to making changes to achieve better water quality, but sensible guidelines and achievable targets are the way for us to move forward. 
To make this all work the Government will need to assist Councils, consultants, urban dwellers, farmers and growers to upskill.  These changes will take time and cost money. 
When you are making your submission, consider making the following points:

1/ Precision irrigation should be permitted for fruit and vegetable expansion greater than 10 hectares.  The current proposal prevents the development of more than 10 hectares of irrigation which will stop further horticulture developments.  Nothing grows without water. Fruit growing improves water quality and is a climate change mitigation tool.

2/ For vegetable growing, water quality issues can be controlled and minimised through risk-based Farm Environment Plans based on good management practice. Vegetables are responsible for less than 1% of water quality degradation.  We need to be able to grow vegetables to feed New Zealander's fresh and healthy food, now and in the future. Currently, 20% of our nation’s children are unable to access the fresh vegetables they need.  We need to be able to expand and continue our vegetable growing to be able to feed our mokopuna.

3/ The Zero Carbon Bill misses out food production despite it being a key element of the Paris Agreement. An amendment needs to be made to the Zero Carbon Bill establishing food production targets alongside a policy to use free allocation to drive lower carbon footprint food production.  Regardless of how the price of carbon is calculated for the primary sector, audited farm plans will be critical in driving on-farm behaviour, demonstrating reductions in emissions and making improvements to the carbon footprint of food.

4/ To properly support growing vegetables to feed New Zealand healthy and affordable food, we need a National Environmental Standard for Commercial Vegetable Growing. It is nonsense to suggest that importing vegetables can feed New Zealand with the world already struggling to feed itself, and climate change limiting water access.

5/ Horticulture fully supports improving water quality, and many growers already have schemes running to do this. The best way for horticulture to achieve better water quality alongside climate change mitigation is through Farm Environment Plans. These should be created by the grower and independently audited under our industry’s Good Agricultural Practice schemes, which more than 95% of our growers have – with aims for achieving 100%.  We need to keep Central and Regional Government out of the prescription of Farm Environment Plans as the grower knows their land best.  All government should do is set catchment targets that can be progressively met.

6/ We need to develop programmes that enable the capture and storage of water. We need resilience for our water supplies, with climate change likely to cause more significant dry periods and more adverse weather in years to come. Water capture can also help mitigate flooding.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive


For more information about HortNZ's submission, and on how to submit to government, please click here.