Just 157 Otago and Southland farmers have resource consent for intensive winter grazing this winter.
The acting consents manager for the Otago Regional Council (OTC), Alexandra King, said there have been 152 applications, with 129 granted and the balance being processed, covering more than 10,000ha.
In Southland just 28 applications have been received, along with four deemed permitted activity applications and 30 permitted activity notifications.
Last year Southland farming leaders pledged not to apply for resource consent as a form of protest against what they called a pointless exercise that would not achieve the government’s aims.
Amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater came into effect on May 1, meaning farmers who are unable to undertake intensive winter grazing as a permitted activity are required to have either applied for a resource consent or, in Southland, a deemed permit.
Environment Southland integrated catchment management manager Paul Hulse said there is no accurate number of properties that require resource consent as farmers can intensively winter graze as a permitted activity provided they meet certain standards and therefore do not need to notify the council.
“Our staff have been proactively engaging with landowners and will be out over winter assessing practices,” said Hulse.
The council will also be undertaking winter grazing inspection flights.
“If our staff note or are alerted to discharges they will investigate and the outcome of those will depend on the level of environmental impact.
“If during our assessments properties are found to be operating without a consent when they require one, staff will investigate.”
Farmers have been encouraged to apply for consent for the next three to five years.
In Otago that requires them to each year update their annual management plan, which tells the council where they have grazed in the previous year and where they plan to graze during the next season.
The ORC intends to actively monitor intensive winter grazing practices with some site visits and will respond to complaints and other information received.
Mike Cummings, an environmental officer with the council, said flyovers last year found what he called “a massive positive change” in winter grazing practices compared to previous years, which he attributed to farmers understanding the rules.