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Risks to farmland in the planning framework

By Anna Bensemann | Sep 22, 2021

With the RMA under scrutiny lately and a new planning framework for managing risks to the land being integrated over the next two years, it’s a good time to consider the potential environmental risks to your land and how you might best manage them.

Science understanding and recent history indicate that we are likely to experience greater climate extremes, placing pressure on land along the coastline and adjacent to waterways. Ensuring you understand the extent of flood-prone areas and potential restrictions on the use of these areas will ensure you can plan for a resilient farm. Perhaps you need to think about when you have stock in paddocks, with stock on higher ground during the winter months.

Greater climate extremes and associated weather events also mean the potential for drier periods during the summer months, and reduced access to water to service your farming needs. Preparing for climate extremes through stock water storage ensures you are in a better position to provide for a resilient farm model through dry periods.

Farmers have always made every effort to ensure that they are resilient in the face of pioneering challenges, and our approach to managing the emerging climate extreme challenge is no different. The reality is that government authorities at, the local, regional and national levels will be imposing policy directions that challenge the farming bottom line in order to achieve positive long term gains in climate change and environmental enhancement spaces. As an industry, the farming community has an opportunity to take the lead on the conversation around managing the impeding climate extremes issue, and finding palatable solutions, prior to enforcement.

While the horse may have bolted prior to these conversations on freshwater management, with government-imposed national environmental standards and policies around freshwater already in place, the conversation around the balance of farming activities is yet to be had. Our views on climate change, be them supportive or sceptical doesn’t change the fact that restrictions on how we use our land and water resources will be imposed.

The opportunity lies in how we seek to engage in the conversations, the value of our voice to demonstrate the most appropriate way forward that provides for the agricultural sectors social, cultural and economic well-being, while achieving sustainable management of our key resources including our land, air, water and soils. Without farmers engaging in the conversations with our plan makers and our decision-makers over what limitations and practical expectations they can have for the management of the land resource, decision-makers will consistently make decisions that do not sit comfortably with our farming communities.

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