Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Southland, Waikato get deadline for Freshwater Farm Plans

Neal Wallace
Rollout begins, with water catchments given 18 months from start date to submit plan.
Waikato farmers have retired nearly 6000ha of farmland and planted over 3 million plants in the past five years to improve water quality and biodiversity.
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THE long-awaited Freshwater Farm Plans will be rolled out in Southland and Waikato from August 1.

Farmers in those water catchments will have 18 months to develop a plan and submit it for certification.

Freshwater Farm Plans will be 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.

Plans for the remaining catchments in those provinces will be phased in every six months after the initial tranche in August, with plans for remaining regions to be outlined before the end of the year.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said plans are not a one-size-fits-all.

“We’ve listened to and acted on the concerns of the sector around how to make a system workable on the ground and roll it out in a way that gives farmers time to make the necessary preparations.

“Demonstrating our sustainability credentials is critical for future export growth and this is a key part of that story.”

Environment Minister David Parker said the government will invest $22.5 million from the Essential Freshwater fund to help farmers, growers and advisers develop their plans.

“The freshwater farm plan regulations are another step in the progression towards widespread adoption of these plans that will, over time, lift the quality of our rural waterways,” he said.

Environment Southland chair Nicol Horrell said the aim of the plans is to support landowners and farmers to identify the risks on their properties so that they are tailored to issues on farm and in the catchment.

“They are not a one-size-fits-all,” Horrell said.

“In Southland, on farm actions need to be tailored to the farm’s unique environment and our goals for achieving Southland’s freshwater outcomes.”

Late last year Environment Southland and industry bodies tested the proposed elements of the farm plan framework with landowners in the Ōpouriki and Pourakino catchments.

The pilot was also an opportunity to test how the national regulations would work with the rules in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan.

“The pilot was an important opportunity for the region to provide input to try and make the Freshwater Farm Plan framework as efficient as possible, and we’re pleased that our feedback was incorporated into the regulations that have been finalised today,” Horrell said.

“Our feedback identified a need for longer timeframes between development of the farm plan, certification and auditing.”

He said longer timeframes were also needed for training and appointing certifiers and auditors.

The structure of freshwater farm plans was expected to be finalised by late last year, with the delay requiring farmers wanting to intensively winter graze this winter to seek resource consent.

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