Monday, April 22, 2024

Report reveals positive IWG improvements

Neal Wallace
An interim report by regional councils to the Government on intensive winter grazing (IWG), praises farmers for improved practices this year, but notes there is more work to do. “While it is acknowledged that there is still more to do it is considered that this report presents a positive response to improving intensive winter grazing practices,” it states.
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An interim report by regional councils to the Government on intensive winter grazing (IWG), praises farmers for improved practices this year, but notes there is more work to do.

“While it is acknowledged that there is still more to do it is considered that this report presents a positive response to improving intensive winter grazing practices,” it states.

Environment Minister David Parker describes the report as a good start.

“The report suggests that councils are showing increased responsiveness to complaints and the primary sector is working to provide support to farmers, particularly those councils where IWG is a more significant activity, such as Southland,” Parker said.

Up to June 30, 14 cases were investigated as a result of calls to a hotline, with 12 in Southland, one on the West Coast and one in Otago.

Nine were resolved, four are under investigation and one could not be located.

During winter, councils increased their use of flyovers and on-ground inspection of IWG conditions.

The report by 16 councils to Parker, reveals collaboration between regional councils and primary sector organisations to provide education, support and tools for farmers.

“This has resulted in a significant uptake of IWG planning and good management practice, increased farmer engagement on IWG and planning for expanded compliance and monitoring programmes,” the report said.

More than 4500 people attended in excess of 150 industry and council arranged extension events on IWG held in 2019 and 2020 by farming groups and regional councils.

A survey of 103 Southland suppliers by Fonterra found 62% have an IWG plan or are in the process of completing one; 29% do not have such a plan with 9% no longer undertaking IWG.

“While the data shows that there has been significant engagement in 2021, it is acknowledged that there is further work to do in some areas, including compliance and monitoring activities, the continued uptake of IWG farm plans and monitoring and evaluation of receiving environments,” it states.

The report to the Ministry of the Environment (MfE) covers activities up to June 30 and follows an agreement between industry and the Government to defer until May 1, 2022, new, far-reaching national environmental standards for freshwater.

In agreeing to the delay, Parker stated that he expected to see improvement in practices by farmers and that regional councils increase monitoring.

The largest known IWG areas are in regional council districts of Southland (3500), Canterbury (2600) and Waikato (2000). Otago and Horizons have significant but unknown numbers of farmers undertaking IWG.

It is expected that a IWG module developed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), MfE, regional councils, DairyNZ, B+LNZ and FAR, will be more widely used, as its release better coincides with the 2022 winter grazing season, starting with paddock selection and sowing.

Regional councils report they have bolstered resources to meet freshwater monitoring obligations including IWG and that they are also adopting technology.

“Regional councils have begun exploring opportunities to utilise technology to achieve improved and more consistent monitoring and reporting on IWG,” it said. 

“These projects include the development of an app to support IWG planning and the use of satellite imagery to identify the extent of IWG.”

Councils are also pooling expertise and funding to develop a more standardised approach through Landcare Research.

A further report on the 2021 winter is due in November and Parker says he wants to see information and a better understanding of the impacts on receiving environments, such as wetlands and estuaries.”

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says he is also pleased progress is being made

“It has been a challenging season weather-wise and we are seeing what progress can be made when people focus on the right objectives and work together,” O’Connor said.

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