Monday, April 22, 2024

Southern freshwater bureaucracy gears up

Neal Wallace
Scores sign on as certifiers and auditors of farm water plans.
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

More than 60 people are seeking to be certifiers and auditors of freshwater farm plans in Southland and Waikato, where plans have been phased in since August 1.

Plans initially affect farmers in the Waipā freshwater management unit in Waikato and in the Aparima, Fiordland and Islands freshwater catchments in Southland.

Landowners in the remaining catchments in these regions must develop plans from February 1 2024 to July 1 2025.

A Ministry for the Environment (MfE) spokesperson said it considers 60 sufficient to implement freshwater farm plans in Waikato and Southland.  

“MfE is working individually with regional councils on the number of certifiers and auditors required in each region,” an MfE spokesperson said.

Despite requests for how much Freshwater Farm Plans (FWFP) will cost, this was not provided by the MfE. However, a study this week for Beef + Lamb NZ on the costs of government policy calculates it at $15,000 per plan. 

Following Southland and Waikato, from next February FWFP will begin to be implemented in parts of Otago and the West Coast and completed between August and September.

Next April the focus will shift to Manawatū-Whanganui, with completion between August and December.

Implementation will be completed throughout the country by the end of 2025.

Existing farm environment plans could be used or adapted as a FWFP.

Once implemented, farmers and growers have 18 months have plans certified, and these must be audited within 12 months of being certified.

They require re-certification every five years.

Information provided by the MfE reveals that a certifier’s role is assessing that a plan meets legislated requirements, and an auditor’s role is to ensure compliance.

A third role, that of an assessor, undertakes on-farm practical assessments, files reviews and checks for quality assurance.

Certifiers and auditors are required to be competent in environmental regulations, including regional plans, to have technical knowledge on potential contaminants and the freshwater environment and an understanding of core cultural concepts including the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Ao Māori and the concept of Te Mana o Te Wai. 

“Core cultural concepts – including the Treaty – are essential so certifiers can understand tāngata whenua matters, cultural sites and species of significance that could form part of a catchment’s context,” a spokesperson said.

Certifiers and auditors are required to pay an unstated set fee on application, an initial training and programme fee and an ongoing annual programme fee. 

To ensure there are sufficient numbers, MfE said it is “looking into options to assist people to enter the farm plan certifier and auditor appointment process”.

National and regional training is estimated to take eight to 16 hours for each role.

Regional training covers aspects relevant to that region, including catchment context, matters of cultural significance, the traditional names of freshwater bodies as well as sites and species of significance to tāngata whenua.

The purpose of national level training is to ensure applicants understand the three competencies.

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