B+LNZ’s recent regional policy work

// Freshwater

We’ve been working on behalf of farmers on important regional processes. Find out more about our work on PC1 in the Waikato, on two new economic reports in Otago and on an Environment Court appeal in Southland.

B+LNZ policy and advocacy general manager Dave Harrison says that while national advocacy is often in the spotlight, there’s a lot of work going on at the regional level to help farmers get better outcomes from regional policy processes. 

This work is, where possible, undertaken with sector groups such as Federated Farmers. “No single organisation has the resources to deal with the huge amount of regional planning that’s coming at the sector so it makes sense to share expertise where we can.”  

Waikato Regional Council Plan Change 1 process 

One regional process where we’re working closely with Federated Farmers to find alignment and better outcomes on behalf of sheep and beef farmers, is the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) Plan Change 1 (PC1) process.  

PC1, which will set limits and targets for different water bodies in the Waikato and Waipā catchments, was first notified in 2016 and there have been several delays since.  

B+LNZ appealed the ‘decisions version’ of PC1 that was notified in April 2020. We are advocating for the minimum farming standards and stock exclusion provisions to be practical and workable for sheep and beef farmers.   

Because we’ve been involved in a confidential mediation process (October 2022-March 2023) and the matter is currently before the Court we’re not able to provide much detail at this stage.  

However, it’s important sheep and beef farmers know that work on their behalf is ongoing. We’ve dedicated significant resources to this process and will continue to do so to ensure we get the right outcomes. We’ll be able to talk more openly about the case once the hearing begins at the end of September and a decision will be released sometime next year.  

Harrison says he understands many farmers are also concerned about the Government's certified freshwater farm plans and how they relate to PC1.  

“While we continue to advocate at a national level for workable requirements around freshwater farm plans, we’re also pushing for there to be as little duplication as possible between the requirements of PC1 and freshwater farm plans which have been activated in parts of Waikato.” 

For more information on freshwater farm plans in this process, go to the WRC website.   

Once parties’ evidence has been sworn into the Court record, we will be able to provide more information to farmers on PC1 – we’re starting to prepare information now. 

Farmers don’t currently need to take any action. If you have any questions in the meantime the best contact is the WRC, or talk to your local B+LNZ Farmer Director, Martin Coup – his details are on this page.  

Economic reports released by Otago Regional Council 

B+LNZ has worked to inform two new economic reports released by Otago Regional Council (ORC) this week – Otago’s Rural Businesses and Environmental Actions for Freshwater, and Otago Region Economic Profile for Land and Water.  

B+LNZ teams collaborated with multiple industry groups such as DairyNZ and DINZ to provide robust and detailed data that will help inform ORC’s development of its land and water plan by ensuring it has a strong understanding of sheep and beef livestock production and red meat processing.  

It’s important that regional councils don’t take one size fits all approaches and that rules take into account the diversity of farming systems. Rules need to be outcomes-based and focused on farms taking measures to address their specific risks and potential impacts.  

Harrison says this is a fantastic example of proactive work in the regional policy space to hopefully inform better decision making. “The reports make good use of industry data, through work such as B+LNZ’s Sheep and Beef Farm Survey and the Whole Farm Data project. We thank farmers who participate in the Survey – it’s a massively important resource for advocacy. 

“Separately, although informed by this work, we also provided submissions to the commissioners appointed by ORC to provide guidance to the council on the development of Otago’s Regional Policy Statement.” 

Read more about the reports on the ORC website.  

Southland appeal 

B+LNZ is partnering with Federated Farmers in support of Feds’ appeal against the Environment Court decision on the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan.  

The Environment Court decision earlier this year means that unless water quality across a region immediately improves above the national bottom lines set in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, any incidental discharges from farming would not be permitted within that region.  

Harrison says that could mean all farming in Southland would require a resource consent. “This is unacceptable. It would be a huge administrative undertaking and would be very costly, without necessarily achieving better environmental outcomes. Another concern is that it could set a precedent for other regions – given this, it’s an important joint focus for us and Feds. 

“It made sense for us to work with Feds on this common concern.” 

B+LNZ has been undertaking economic analysis similar to its work in Otago, providing submissions and engaging with Environment Southland for several years, and work on the appeal process is ongoing. 

Other work 

There are a number of other regions we’re actively working in, and we’re providing farmers with information as necessary. If there’s a regional policy process in your area you’d like to know more about, contact heather.mckay@beeflambnz.com