The Government’s consultation on Essential Freshwater wetland definitions

// Freshwater

B+LNZ will be making a submission on this consultation and will publish it once it has been finalised. Our advice is that unless farmers have specific concerns about the proposed changes, they don’t need to make a submission.

As part of the suite of consultations relating to the essential freshwater package, the Government is currently consulting on some proposed changes to the rules under the National Environmental Standards about wetlands.

The changes relate to what defines a ‘wetland’ and what activities can be undertaken in and around these areas.

B+LNZ is working on its submission and once it is finalised, it will be published  on our website. Our advice is that unless farmers have specific concerns about the proposed changes, they don’t need to make a submission.

Here’s some more information on what our submission will cover, and why this is important.

Our response to what’s proposed

The proposals to change the definition of ‘wetland’ can have significant implications for what areas on farms need to be protected and how this is done.

Overall, B+LNZ is pleased to see the proposed new definition of ‘natural wetland’ is much clearer than the original. Our position is that we should be focusing time and energy on protecting truly significant wetlands, rather than spending precious time arguing about definitions. Our original feedback to the Government was that ‘wet bits’ in paddocks were inadvertently captured by the rules, which they have sought to address.

We have questions around some of the details such as:

  • how 50 percent will be ascertained in part (c) of the new definition – ie ‘natural wetland’ being a wetland that is not “any area of pasture that has more than 50 percent ground cover comprising exotic pasture species or exotic species associated with pasture”
  • how any guidance attached to the definition will work – there needs to be consistency and the local knowledge of regional councils needs to be appropriately allowed for.

We will also be commenting on the proposed changes that better enable restoration, maintenance and biosecurity work. We support making these activities easier and what’s proposed does seem to enable this.

Our submission will note that wetlands are very important because they have many values – in addition to freshwater health outcomes, they offer climate resilience and biodiversity benefits. We will therefore be commenting that there needs to be an integrated view across the Government’s environmental policies – for some time, we’ve been arguing that taking a piecemeal approach isn’t working.

It’s also worth noting that some of the proposals in the discussion document aren’t very relevant to sheep and beef farming activities – as they cover issues such as consenting pathways for mineral mining and urban development.

Why this is important

We need clear and workable rules that allow farmers, regional councils and others to get on and do the good work that needs to be done in terms of protection and restoration of wetlands.

This is especially important for our farmers who have already done plenty of great work on their farms to re-establish wetlands and who require clarity so they can continue to provide ongoing maintenance of these areas.

Further information

For more information on all the freshwater-related consultations see the consultation webpage on our website.

Note that, in line with our advice about farmers not needing to make a submission, we have decided not to develop a factsheet or submission template. If you have any questions about our submission, please contact us by email at