Agriculture sector seeks further detail on Freshwater Farm Plans

// Freshwater

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) are all supportive of farm plans as a tool for improving environmental outcomes but have concerns about the implementation and short timeframes the Government is working to.


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Freshwater Farm Plans are a practical way for farmers and growers to identify, manage and reduce the impact of farming on the freshwater environment. They will be required in parts of the Waikato and Southland from August 2023 and rolled out to all regions by the end of 2025.

The four agriculture groups have been working through the new Freshwater Farm Plan regulations, released earlier this month, and talking directly with Ministers and officials to improve environmental outcomes in a way that is fair, practical, and cost-effective for farmers.

While partners agree the Government has made some improvements to Freshwater Farm Plans, there are still some significant issues that remain unresolved and important details that need to be worked through.

B+LNZ Chair Kate Acland says, “all parties acknowledge that farm environment plans have an important role to play in managing freshwater health, but these plans and the processes around them need to be practical for farmers – and not tie them up in unnecessary red tape and costs.”

“The key issues include the very low 20ha threshold requiring all farmers to have a certified plan, addressing uncertainty over how existing regional or sector plans will be integrated with the Government’s new regulated plans, and details of how the regulations will be implemented by regional councils.”

Federated Farmers President Wayne Langford says, “the Government have signalled that they’re willing to address some of the concerns we’ve raised with them, but we need to see some urgent action on that to give farmers certainty that these rules will be fair and practical as they’re rolled out.

“We don’t want to see excessive costs heaped onto farmers who are already under significant financial pressure, or unnecessary duplication of the work that’s gone into existing industry or regional plans. This needs to be a carefully managed process with a sensible transition.”

DINZ Chair Mandy Bell says, “farmers are responding to the requirements for ever better land management and Deer Industry New Zealand has been working to help all farmers with deer to have farm environment plans, but the Government’s focus must be on working to achieve better environmental outcomes in a cost-effective and practical manner, and not simply imposing cost to record compliance.”

DairyNZ Chair Jim van der Poel encourages the Government to work with industry bodies to get this issue right, so farmer confidence isn’t undermined, and to recognise the high-quality planning and investment farmers are already doing to improve freshwater outcomes.

“The Government has committed to recognising existing plans. However, the sector needs more detail on how existing regional, industry and sector-led plans will transition to regulated freshwater farm plans over reasonable timeframes.”

An initial programme is due to be rolled out by the Government over the next few months. The sector groups are committed to working with the Government to help it understand the practical implications of these Freshwater Farm Plan regulations at a farm level and will be watching the pilot programmes in Waikato and Southland closely.

They are calling on the Government to continue to take sector feedback on board and to act quickly to turn their stated willingness to address our concerns into concrete action.


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