Government announcement on stock exclusion and winter grazing

// Forage Cropping

This email was sent to farmers on 24 April 2024.

image of cows grazing forage crops

On Tuesday, the Government announced a Bill to amend the Resource Management Act (RMA) to make urgent changes to the resource management system, particularly in relation to stock exclusion, winter grazing and Significant Natural Areas (SNAs).

This announcement will be a relief for many farmers who were faced with an unnecessary regulatory burden and significant on-farm compliance costs and is something B+LNZ has long been pushing for. The current rules are problematic and impractical in their one-size fits all approach.

We are still seeking clarity on some of the details but wanted to update you on how the changes affect farmers.

Amendment to stock exclusion regulations for sloped land

We understand the following changes will be made: 

  • The low slope map will be removed and so beef and deer that are not “intensively grazed” will no longer be required to be excluded from waterways by the national stock exclusion regulations. 
  • The waterway (including lakes) crossing rules in the regulations for non-intensively grazed beef cattle and deer will also be removed.  
  • There may be some changes to wetlands rules on low slope land. 

What would still be left: 

  • Beef cattle and deer that are being “intensively grazed” would still have to be excluded from “wide rivers” and lakes on all terrain. (Intensively grazed beef cattle and deer are currently defined as being break-fed or grazing on annual forage crops or grazing on pasture that has been irrigated with water in the previous 12 months. Wide rivers are defined as rivers / streams with a bed that is wider than 1 metre anywhere in a land parcel).
  • Dairy cattle and dairy support cattle will still have to be excluded from wide rivers on all terrain. 
  • Farmers will still need to comply with any relevant stock exclusion and waterway crossing rules in their local regional plan.     

This is a complicated area, once we have more specific details, B+LNZ is keen to hear  from farmers, especially those located in the West Coast of the South Island, if these changes will address the issues they have with the current regulations.

Repeal of the intensive winter grazing regulations

The winter grazing rules have been repealed. We understand the intent is to fold these into freshwater farm plans in some form in the future.

This change won’t take effect until 2025, however most farmers already have winter grazing plans for this winter. 

The delay may create some uncertainty with regional councils around how they will apply the current rules in the interim. So far, many regional councils have taken a relatively pragmatic approach to the application of the winter grazing rules and we will be encouraging them to do that this year, given we will be transitioning to a new system. 

Farmers have made significant environmental improvements in the last few years by excluding stock from waterways and better managing the risks of winter grazing and we are pleased that this has been recognised by moving away from the prescriptive, heavily consent-based approach to a more pragmatic approach focused on farm management.

SNAs and resource consent

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management NPS-FM is currently being reviewed and replaced. While this is happening, individual resource consent applicants will no longer need to demonstrate their proposed activities follow the Te Mana o te Wai hierarchy of obligations, as set out in the NPS-FM.

This is a positive move, as it removes this unreasonable burden which can add significant cost to farmers obtaining these consents.  

The Bill will also suspend the requirement for councils to identify new SNAs under the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity. This is something the Government had already signalled would happen and is the next step in the process to bring this about.  

Next steps

The Government will be doing the changes via primary legislation, that will go through the select committee process. B+LNZ and farmers will have the opportunity to have input into this process if there are any further changes that need to be made. We’ll be seeking farmer feedback as part of this process.