Green Party launches Smart Farming for Clean Rivers policy

The Green Party today launched its Smart farming for Clean Rivers policy- the final component of its election pledge to make all New Zealand rivers clean enough to swim in.

The Green Party today launched its Smart farming for Clean Rivers policy- the final component of its election pledge to make all New Zealand rivers clean enough to swim in.

The Party's Co-leader Dr Russel Norman made the announcement at a dairy farm in Raglan, whose owners Mike and Madeline Moss have created 14km of fenced and planted waterways and nine hectares of protected wetlands.

The Green Party's Smart Farming for Clean Rivers policy comprises two key elements

1. A National Environment Standard for Fencing of Livestock and Riparian Strips

· The standard will require livestock to be fenced out of all waterways, lakes, and permanent wetlands.
· Riparian strips will be required, meaning that the fences must be set back from waterways, leaving a buffer zone of vegetation.
· Intensive agricultural operations will be required to permanently fence their waterways to a set standard with setbacks by 1 July 2017, while non-intensive farms with cattle will have the same deadline but for temporary fencing.
· Farmers will be able to get carbon credits for the CO2 sequestered by planting on their riparian strip and we will give them an incentive to get started with a $100m fund over three years.

2. A charge on water used for irrigation

· This charge will be determined with stakeholder consultation, with all revenue ring-fenced for water clean-up initiatives.

"This plan is good for the environment and good for farmers," said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

"Fencing livestock out of rivers and planting riverbanks has numerous economic benefits for farming: less stock loss in wet areas, lower vet bills, reduced costs for digging drains, weed control in riparian areas and fertiliser costs, increased land values, and better pasture quality."

"But fencing dairy cows out of streams is a token gesture if you stop at that as National has done. The key is ensuring the fences are setback from streams to provide a buffer zone of vegetation.

"As well, you absolutely have to put controls on land use intensification which is the main source of water pollution in New Zealand.

"Without controls on intensification, all you're doing is letting the pollution problem get worse in order to then spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money trying to clean up the mess.

Land use intensification will be controlled under water rules announced by the Green Party in July.

"The Green Party will also put a charge on the use of water for irrigation in order to drive more efficient use of our precious freshwater resources," said Dr Norman.

"The OECD, New Zealand Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment have all recommended water charging, yet National is sitting on its hands.

"According to Lincoln University's Public Perceptions of New Zealand's Environment 2010 study, New Zealanders, including farmers, are strongly supportive of commercial users being charged for the water they use.

"That's because freshwaters is a common good, and the use of it for private profit should result in a direct benefit to both the environment and wider community.

"We will ring fence the money generated by the irrigation charge for water pollution clean-up initiatives."

Dr Norman said that his policies reward good farmers that are doing the right things, whereas National's policies incentivise poor practice.

Smart Farming for Clean Rivers complements the Green Party's previous environmental priorities to:

· Establish a protected rivers network to permanently safeguard our most precious rivers similar to the permanent protection given to national parks;

· Implement new rules for water quality to ensure our rivers are clean enough to swim in, rather than National's weak rules that mean you can only safely dip your toe;
· Protect our beaches from oil spills by prohibiting deep sea drilling and making coastal shipping safer;
· Invest $20 million per year for ten years to help small towns and communities upgrade sewage treatment systems;
· Protect the endangered Maui's dolphin and grow its population by prohibiting fishing practices that can kill Maui's dolphins across their whole habitat, and investing up to $20 million to help affected fishers adapt.

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