Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has welcomed the Government’s announcement of amended winter grazing rules, saying the changes it secured will make the regulations more workable for farmers, while contributing to good management of winter grazing on farm.
B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor notes that on an initial review of the amended rules, there is good news for farmers, although he is disappointed some of the changes sought were not implemented.
“We engaged closely with the Government throughout this process and are pleased to see that much of our feedback has been incorporated into the final legislation, particularly around pugging, resowing dates and critical source areas.
“We are also pleased the Government has again deferred the date for these regulations to come into effect, which was another of our recommendations. The date will now be 1 November 2022, and means farmers can proceed with this winter’s forage crop grazing as planned.”
The amended regulations have had specific depth and area requirements around pugging removed – these have been replaced with a standard requiring reasonable practical steps to minimise adverse effects of pugging on freshwater.
The set resowing date has also been removed and replaced with a standard requiring the establishment of vegetative ground cover as soon as practicable following the completion of grazing.
A further key change recognised by B+LNZ is the focus on protecting critical source areas from annual forage crop cultivation and grazing and maintaining vegetative ground cover in these areas (between 1 May and 30 September, in areas used for or adjacent to intensive winter grazing).
“We know managing critical source areas is a key tool for minimising environmental risk. These changes mean it’s likely more farmers will be able to meet permitted activity criteria, and be able to undertake intensive winter grazing activities without requiring resource consent. However, where all the criteria cannot be met, resource consent will be required and B+LNZ anticipates that a number of farmers will need consents, particularly in relation to slope.”
The regulations have been changed in relation to slope from a mean slope of 10 degrees to a maximum slope of 10 degrees.
“We’re disappointed with this. In our submission we recommended a 15 degree maximum slope, in line with the Southland Advisory Group report. There is very limited scientific evidence to support 10 degrees and this threshold puts hill country farmers at a disadvantage for implementing pasture renewal programmes on their steeper farmland. We will look at ways in which this could be improved in future.”
Mr McIvor says B+LNZ recognises that intensive winter grazing – while a valuable management tool – can be a risky activity, and acknowledges that the environmental risks of intensive winter grazing require proactive and practical management. “We appreciate the Government’s willingness to work with industry on amending what was proposed – while it’s still not perfect, we are in a better place than where we started.
“Our focus is on supporting farmers to safely manage intensive winter grazing. In addition to our existing ongoing work, we’re developing new resources and other ways to help farmers understand the new rules and the resource consent application process.
“We’ll also continue to work with the Government to finalise the certified freshwater farm planning pathway. This pathway must be practical and outcomes-based rather than prescriptive – we do not want it to compromise the progress that has been made to date on improving these rules. This alternative pathway remains in the regulations although is not available until the related freshwater farm plan regulations are finalised by Government.”
For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Katie Jans on 027 838 6353.