Friday, October 03, 2008

The farmer exemption

In yesterday's post about the failure of the Clean Streams Accord, I talked about the need to repeal the farmer exemption from the RMA. This may have caused some puzzlement - after all, aren't farmers always complaining about the RMA?

Yes, because many of the subsidiary activities involved in farming - building a milking shed, disposing of the effluent collected there, taking water for irrigation - are regulated under the RMA. But the act of farming itself - of sticking cows in a field and having them shit everywhere - is not. The interpretation clause of the RMA excludes "production land" - defined as

any land and auxiliary buildings used for the production (but not processing) of primary products (including agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, and forestry products)
from the definition of "industrial or trade premises". Meaning that these activities do not need resource consent. But as we're seeing from the increasing pollution of our streams with fertiliser runoff and dairy effluent, these activities have severe environmental effects which are ruining the environment for everyone else. They should therefore be regulated, just like any other polluting industrial activity.

The current situation is like requiring a coal-fired power plant to obtain resource consent to store its coal in a big pile, but not for the environmental effects (fly ash, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide) of actually burning it. And that is simply madness.