If farmers feel they’re having trouble keeping up with legislative changes, spare a thought for regional councils.

Landpro executive director Kate Scott said, at a recent Otago Dairy Environment Leaders’ Forum, regional council staff were given no more time than farmers to understand the changes.

“Just like for farmers, it’s not business as usual for them either. They are trying to grapple with the new legislation and most are suffering from a lack of staff at the same time.”

She said Landpro, an environmental consultancy company set up in 2007, was working with farmers to help them become compliant with all of the changes and she urged people to work together.

‘They are trying to grapple with the new legislation and most are suffering from a lack of staff at the same time.’

“My advice to you is to participate in the process. Put in submissions to regional council plans, join catchment groups, understand what your regional council is proposing, go along to hearings and tell your farming story.”

She said Otago Regional Council (ORC) would be spending much of the year and the next in the Environment Court as Plan Change 7 and 8 went through the process of notifications, submissions and hearings to meet the Government’s national policy statement objectives. The ORC has also recently notified their proposed Regional Policy Statement.

“It’s a moving beast that doesn’t really ever land.

“And the science is still catchingup so there is not always clarity on how to achieve what the Government wants.”

She said many farmers were already trying to do what was needed, before regulations came in. Her view was it was better to make a start and have to change it than not starting at all.

“This is our generation’s challenge. To get through this. Just like the last generation’s challenge was the removal of farming subsidies in the 1980s.

“Some farmers did leave the land back then but those who stayed built more resilient, more efficient and more profitable farming systems than ever before.

“When there is change there are always opportunities.”

She urged farmers to prepare farm environment plans and nutrient budgets.

“You have most of this in your head but you need it written down. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. It’s a start and these documents should be living documents – they should always need updating and changing.

“You know your farm better than anyone so if you have written down what you are doing then you know how legislative change will affect you when it’s announced and what you have to do to meet those requirements.

“And most of all stay positive.I know it feels like at the moment we’re having everything thrown at us but keep your passion for farmingbecause that is what is going to get us through.”