Saturday, April 13, 2024

Ministers refuse to budge on winter grazing rules

Neal Wallace
Damien O’Connor unequivocal that new regime will apply from November 1 as planned.
Bernadette Hunt says farmers are repeating previous winter cropping practices, which Environment Southland has largely praised in recent years.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Efforts to delay the implementation of new intensive winter grazing rules, due to apply next winter, appear to have failed.

Reports following a meeting between farming groups and government officials this week reveal that the ministers have not been swayed.

Industry leaders were not prepared to comment publicly but Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, interviewed on The Country, was unequivocal that the rules will apply from November 1 as planned. 

Farming groups sought a delay because government officials have not been able to complete freshwater farm plans, an alternative to resource consents for non-compliant winter graziers, in time for next winter.

Farming groups have estimated that potentially 10,000 non-compliant farmers may require resource consent for winter grazing, which regional councils are not expected to be able to process.

A Ministry for the Environment spokesperson said freshwater farm plans are expected to start coming into effect from 2023, as planned and in line with advice to the Cabinet in mid-2021.

These will be progressively introduced three to four regions at a time, from early next year.

“Freshwater farm plans are one of three pathways for a farm operator to manage the environmental risk around intensive winter grazing. The other two are complying with default conditions set out in the regulations or applying for a resource consent.”

An Environment Canterbury spokesperson said the introduction of certified freshwater farm plans will not be available “for some time”, meaning farmers undertaking intensive winter grazing activities will need to comply with the permitted activity rules or apply for a resource consent.

“Our staff are focused on the environmental effects of intensive winter grazing and a risk-based approach to implementing this is being developed,” said the spokesperson.

Consent applications will need to be lodged by May 1 next year. Once filed, the spokesperson said, the consent does not have to be granted for the activity to be compliant.

“We have been working to manage the expected increase in applications and have a number of initiatives underway to build our capacity for handling consent volumes.

“We are currently working through a high volume of resource consent applications, and some are experiencing delays.”

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