A recent DomPost article on the Mohaka River noted that the HB Regional Council was preparing rules changes that would be more restrictive about permitting dairy farms to pollute waterways.
The article said: “The council has begun preparing a plan change to bring in new regulations on intensive farming, meaning farmers might have to reduce stock numbers or develop new infrastructure. The new rules might affect the farms’ viability and in that case the council would look at compensating farmers, Mrs Codlin (HBRC Strategy Development Manager Helen Codlin) said.”
Where does this logic about compensating dairy farmers for not polluting come from?!
- If higher fuel efficiency standards lessen the market for petrol-guzzling car models, are taxpayers supposed to subsidise these carmakers for their lost market share?
- If pubs are required to close two hours earlier, should ratepayers compensate pub owners if their sales and revenue decline?
- If industries face new restrictions that limit their ability to dump waste materials into landfills or stormwater, are taxpayers supposed to pay for the improved waste disposal practises those industries must adopt?
No! No! And No!
Governments might provide for transition periods for industries — including dairy farmers — to adopt new pollution mitigating technologies or practises, but that’s it. Just because a farmer thought he could endlessly pollute the environment because the regulatory regime permitted it, that’s no justification for paying the farmer to mend his ways when the rules toughen.
All businesses know they are operating in a changeable environment with respect to the stringency of standards and enforcement attitudes. The smart ones factor this contingency into their business planning, figuring that a day of reckoning will indeed come along. They plan to either invest in the appropriate technologies or exit the business. Dairymen — like other farmers — should be no more immune to this business reality than any other type of enterprise.
Adopting this kind of rule change must follow a process in which all sides will be heard extensively. But at the end of the day, if the case is made for constraining what farmers can do or for prescribing best practises, so as to meet tougher environmental safeguards, so be it. And the more briskly the Regional Council proceeds down that path, the better.