Industry groups call for hold on winter grazing rules

// Forage Cropping

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is working with other industry groups to call for the winter grazing rules to be put on hold until November 2023 as the Government has failed to implement crucial elements.

grazing crops

B+LNZ, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers have written to Environment Minister David Parker calling for a delay and to work with the sector on a practical interim solution.  

The current rules require farmers who graze livestock on an annual forage crop over winter, and do not meet a range of permitted activity criteria, to either gain a certified Freshwater Farm Plan, or to apply for a resource consent from 1 November 2022.

“Unfortunately, the Government has failed to get the freshwater farm plans in place in time, meaning farmers will have to go down the expensive consenting process,” says B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor.

Thousands of farmers are now likely to have to go through the consenting process, with Waikato Regional Council estimating that more than 1,000 farmers in their region are likely to need a consent. 

“Regional councils have reported winter grazing practices have lifted significantly in recent years, which proves that farmers are committed to improving their winter grazing practices. A delay in the implementation of the rules won’t be at the expense of the environment,” he says.

“This volume of farmers using a resource consent pathway will mean a significant cost to the farming community and a significant burden on regional councils who would need to process these resource consents.

“There is significant risk that regional councils are simply unable to process resource consents in time, especially as farmers need to plan for next season’s forage crops now. We’re calling for a pragmatic solution.”

While the Government has missed the deadline on freshwater farm plans, McIvor says a practical approach would be for farmers to be able to use the winter grazing module developed as part of existing industry farm environment plans. 

“We know these modules offer a robust template and process to manage risks,” he says.

“Our request is that the regulations are delayed until November 2023 and that industry work to provide farmers with a winter grazing template to complete this season.

“In parallel, the sector would like to continue to have a conversation with the Government about the 10-degree slope rule, which is one of the triggers for needing a consent.  Ideally, we would like this slope rule increased to 15-degrees or exemptions applied if the steep paddock being winter grazed does not feed into a waterway.” 

IWG tips for farmers

  • The intensive winter grazing (IWG) regulations commence 1 November 2022.  If you do not meet the permitted activity conditions (see IWG factsheet), currently you will need a resource consent as the alternative freshwater farm plan (FWFP) pathway is not yet available.
  • Due to the Government not having the FWFP pathway ready, B+LNZ, along with industry partners Federated Farmers and DairyNZ have written to Ministers, requesting a deferral of the IWG regulation commencement date.  We have recommended an alternative approach using an IWG module (based on the one recommended by B+LNZ and the Southland IWG advisory group) in the interim.
  • We understand farmers need to plan for next season’s IWG now, so if you will require consent under the current rules, we suggest approaching your regional council to discuss timeframes for application.
  • B+LNZ appreciates the lack of certainty around FWFPs and consenting makes it difficult for farmers to plan ahead, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure the Government takes a practical approach to addressing this issue. Regardless of the outcome you should follow recommended best practice (see our dedicated Winter Grazing section for further information) in preparing for next season’s IWG.