Topics:
Environment

Waikato Regional Council Plan Change 1 update

While sheep and beef farmers have welcomed the majority of outcomes of the Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change 1 process, there are still some points that require work.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020

These include Schedule C in the minimum farming standards which specifies that stock must be excluded from waterways regardless of slope if the number of stock units exceeds 18/ha at any time.

Another point of concern is Part D of Schedule D1 in the Farm Environment Plan requirements, which specifies that no cattle older than two years or greater than 400kg liveweight are grazed on LUC class 6e, 7 or 8 land from 1 June to 1 September.

These standards have a direct impact on those farmers using rotational grazing and differing stock classes to maintain pasture quality on hill country, as any exceptions will mean the operation is no longer a permitted activity and will require a resource consent. 

Also included is a change to the Whangamarino catchment making it regulated irrespective of intensity.

This means that anyone farming in this catchment falls into the restricted discretionary rules and will require a resource consent.  This includes ensuring you meet the minimum farming standards specified, completing a farm environment plan which must be signed off by a Certified Farm Environment Planner and production of a nitrogen leaching loss rate.

The next step in the PC1 process is appeals to The Environment Court.  The Environment Court has granted a waiver to extend the timeframe for filing notices of appeal due to the unusual circumstances we have found ourselves in with Covid-19.  Individual farmers have 70 working days to appeal (18th August 2020) and all others 50 working days (8th July 2020).  Submitters may only appeal on a matter in the decisions if you referred to that matter in your submission.

We are hoping the outcome of the appeal process will be as positive as the initial process which saw the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) notify the decisions version of Plan Change 1 (PC1) on 22nd April 2020. 

This was based on the recommendations made by the Hearings Panel on the proposed changes. During the plan change process, sheep and beef farmers were galvanized and hundreds initially submitted on the plan and then turned up in their droves to the hearings to represent their sector.

In true farmer style, this wasn’t to complain about the issues but to put forward sensible practical solutions to achieve the water quality outcomes that everyone wants and it is clear from the results that the Commissioners listened.

The decisions version of PC1 reflects many of the outcomes sheep and beef farmers requested including the removal of nitrogen grandparenting. There is a clear acknowledgement that extensive farming has a low environmental footprint and requires flexibility and that farm environment plans are a key tool in managing environmental outcomes. 

B+LNZ has been going through the details of the decision and working with other primary sector organisations on those areas where we align.

This will include opposition to the points we do not agree with and offering alternative solutions whilst also supporting those parts we are in agreeance with.

As part of this process we would value your feedback and solutions and are looking to run a series of on-line workshops with farmers. 

This provides an opportunity to ensure you fully understand the plan and its implications and to be part of the development of solutions on those outstanding issues. The first workshop will be on 2nd June from 1–2pm. Please visit our events webpage to register at https://beeflambnz.com/events/blnz-online-plan-change-1-workshops