Beef + Lamb New Zealand welcomes proposed changes to Essential Freshwater programme

// Freshwater

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has welcomed proposed changes to the stock exclusion regulations and the low-slope map.

Image of river through Waikato farm.

“The Government’s original low slope map identified thousands of hectares of steep land as low slope and therefore required fencing, which was unworkable and wouldn’t deliver good environmental outcomes,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.

“That’s why we are pleased the Government has listened and changed the stock exclusion trigger from a 10 degree slope to a five degree slope and introduced an altitude limit. That means if the area of an extensive farming operation is at a certain altitude, or/and above five degrees slope, it will not be required to be fenced. That’s a commonsense solution.

“We also support the improvements to the spatial resolution of the low slope map, although we are concerned a level of inaccuracy remains. The outcome is that the bite of the regulations has been reduced and overall the regulations are far more workable and effects-based.  However, we need to now discuss the practical implications with our farmers.”

There remains a lot of concern among farmers about the Government’s proposed Certified Freshwater Farm Plan, the extent it will prescribe what farmers can do, the costs associated with certification and auditing, and the extent to which farmers’ personal or business information will become publicly discoverable, says Mr McIvor.

“The devil will be in the detail about the Government’s approach to farm planning. We need to see the farm planning regulations and guidance in detail because the Government has not defined exactly how they will work. Our expectation will be that the Government will further consult with the sector on the regulations.

“We have been clear from the outset that farm planning should be farmer-owned, effects-based in relation to environmental outcomes, enable innovation, adaptation and be flexible enough to respond to different farms, not one size fits all. There are indications in the document that the Government has responded to that.

“The only information that should be made available to the public about an individual Certified Freshwater Farm plan is its most recent audit outcome – basically whether it passed, similar to public-facing food safety grade certificates at a restaurant or café, or a WoF sticker on a car.

“Farmers need workable and relevant rules and B+LNZ has been calling for effects-based approaches at the paddock scale to both winter grazing and to stock exclusion, delivered through effective farm planning.

“B+LNZ is requesting the relevant sections of the B+LNZ farm plan be recognised as the Certified Freshwater Farm Plan because we know the approach outlined in our farm plan will work for farmers, their emerging market needs, and the environment.

“We will now be reviewing the discussion document in detail, providing advice to our farmers and seeking farmer feedback to develop a submission to the Ministry for the Environment.”


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