Farmers raise concerns over freshwater farm plans

// Freshwater

During the first few B+LNZ farmer feedback sessions this week, farmers repeatedly raised concerns about freshwater farm plans. Their concerns were consistent with B+LNZ’s positions – not all farmers should have to do a certified and audited freshwater farm plan, plans must not be prescriptive and inputs-driven, and there are concerns about costs and implementation.

waterways running through farm

B+LNZ Board Chair Kate Acland said farmers are frustrated at the lack of certainty about certified freshwater farm plans. 

“Farmers are already dealing with a deluge of new environmental policies and they’re justifiably concerned about these new requirements. 

“All they know so far is that freshwater farm plans will be compulsory and, on the basis of what the Government consulted on, they’re worried those plans will be unnecessarily prescriptive and won’t in fact achieve the desired freshwater health outcomes.”

Ms Acland notes farmers’ concerns reflect B+LNZ’s feedback in its October 2021 consultation submission and subsequent ongoing advocacy work. 

“Farm plans are a useful management tool, and B+LNZ has led the way with its own farm planning resources for sheep and beef farmers, which have been well-received. 

“However, freshwater farm plans must be targeted at at-risk catchments, doing at-risk activities. A one-size-fits-all approach is not going to achieve the environmental outcomes we all want.

“The plans should also be based on industry plans. Our farm plans are backed by best practice and extensive experience, and are outcomes-based. A prescriptive, inputs-based approach risks just being a box-ticking exercise and will add to farmers’ administrative burden.

“We’ve also done a lot of work to align our farm plans with industry assurance programmes so farmers can see benefits and consumers can have certainty. We’ve long argued there’s no need for all farmers to have a regulated plan because we’re already doing the work to improve freshwater health outcomes in the most effective way.”

Farmers and B+LNZ have also noted significant concerns about the likely costs of certifying freshwater farm plans, and other practicalities such as whether there will be enough certifiers available. 

Ms Acland says B+LNZ has been coordinating with Federated Farmers on this issue and recently met with Environment Minister David Parker to reiterate concerns. 

The Government recently announced it would be releasing the freshwater farm plan regulations soon.

It is understood that the certified freshwater farm plans will be rolled out over several years with Waikato and Southland being the first regions required to implement freshwater farm plan requirements.

Ms Acland says B+LNZ will continue to raise concerns about certified freshwater farm plans with the Government.