Saturday, December 2, 2023

Ag leaders raise concerns on Freshwater Farm Plans

Neal Wallace
Cost-cutting changes suggested to ministers and officials.
Agricultural leaders say there are still some significant Freshwater Farm Plan issues that remain unresolved and important details that need to be worked through.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Farming leaders are questioning the implementation and tight timeframes of the government’s new Freshwater Farm Plans, which start rolling out in August.

They are questioning the practicality of the process, the low 20ha threshold that requires landowners to have a certified freshwater plan, uncertainty over how these will be integrated with existing regional or sector plans and how the regulations will be implemented by regional councils.

While supportive of the concept, leaders of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) have raised these concerns with politicians and officials.

The long-delayed rollout of Freshwater Farm Plans (FFPs) starts in Southland and Waikato from August 1 and will be implemented in all regions by the end of 2025.

Once implemented, farmers in that region will have 18 months to develop a plan and submit it for certification.

Plans are required for any farming operation with 20ha or more in arable or pastoral use, 5ha or more in horticultural use or any combination equalling more than 20ha.

Farming leaders said plans are a practical way for farmers and growers to identify, manage and reduce the impact of farming on the freshwater environment, but changes have been suggested to ministers and officials that will make them more practical and cost-effective.

They will be closely watching the rollout in Southland and Waikato. 

“While partners agree the government has made some improvements to FFPs, there are still some significant issues that remain unresolved and important details that need to be worked through,” the group said in a statement.

“The key issues include the very low 20ha threshold requiring all farmers to have a certified plan, addressing uncertainty over how existing regional or sector plans will be integrated with the government’s new regulated plans, and details of how the regulations will be implemented by regional councils,” BLNZ chair Kate Acland said.

Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford said while the government has signalled a willingness to address some concerns, he wants certainty that these rules will be fair and practical as they’re rolled out.

DINZ chair Mandy Bell said the government’s focus must be to achieve better environmental outcomes in a cost-effective and practical manner, and not simply impose a cost to record compliance.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel encouraged the government to work with industry bodies to achieve reform but also to recognise the planning and investment farmers have already made to improve freshwater outcomes. 

“The government has committed to recognising existing plans. However, the sector needs more detail on how existing regional, industry and sector-led plans will transition to regulated freshwater farm plans over reasonable timeframes.” 

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