Thursday, October 22, 2020

Farmers earning their reputation again

New Zealand farmers routinely complain about the public viewing them as environmental vandals. At the same time, they're opposing basic environmental regulation:

Federated Farmers has asked that a wide-ranging plan change setting water use rules for South Canterbury remove all references to the protection of “indigenous fish”.


In its submission, Federated Farmers says there needs to be ‘’thorough analysis and discussion about the identification and value of these habitats, how widespread they are likely to become, what areas will be covered by them and what the impacts will be, especially economic impacts’’.

“Until this is done, Federated Farmers is opposed to all references to indigenous freshwater species habitat,’’ the submission says.

The underlying argument here is that we don't know enough to know what we need to protect. But if that's the case, then the precautionary principle suggests we should protect it all, then work out what doesn't need protecting. Leaving stuff unprotected is a recipe for environmental destruction and predatory delay.

The good news here is that the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management requires councils to protect the habitats of indigenous freshwater species, so they literally can't do what the farmers demand. Better, the "best information" clause requires that where information is uncertain, decision-makers must interpret it so as to give best effect to the NPS - that is, to habitat protection, via a hierarchy of values which places ecosystem health above economic development. So Federated Farmers should lose this argument, and if the Council illegally bows to their demands, the courts will correct them.