Stringent new rules around freshwater management come into effect this month, although farmers will have until 2023 to implement them.
The Ministry of Environment has updated its National Environmental Standards to require farmers to fence off a three-metre margin along waterways more than a metre wide.
If a fence is already in place for the purpose of excluding animals from waterways, it is permitted to stay in place, even if it is not three metres away from the edge.
Animals must also be fenced off from any wetlands identified in regional or district council plans.
If animals have to cross a waterway, they can only do so via a dedicated bridge or culvert or only cross twice in one month with farmer supervision.
The Government has also made changes to the national policy statement on freshwater management.
It indicates that ultimately a freshwater farm plan from a certified provider will be required for all farm owners.
Changing land use from less intensive to more intensive will now require a resource consent if the area converted is greater than 10 hectares.
This includes conversion from forestry to pasture and from pasture to dairy, as well as increasing irrigation for dairy.
The land use change will only be consented if it can be demonstrated the activity will not increase contaminants in water catchments.
The Government has also introduced a cap on the use of nitrogen fertilisers on pasture. The maximum that can be used is 190kg per hectare, per year.
Dairy farmers will be required to report to councils annually how much nitrogen they have applied per hectare on each 20ha block on their land.
Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor is pleased that the Government has taken on board feedback and only required a three-metre exclusion zone, rather than a five-metre one.
“However, there is still a lack of clarity about what the certified farm plans will look like and how quickly they will be in place,” he says.
“We encourage farmers to engage with their regional council on how they intend to implement the rules.”
See online story for a fact sheet on the new rules prepared by Beef + Lamb NZ beeflambnz.com/sites/default/files/consultations/Essential-Freshwater-Aug-2020.pdf
Requirements will create ripples
The Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG) says it is ready to assist farmers to comply with the new fresh water rules.
IKHMG ambassador Earle Wright says the new rules will likely have the most effect on beef farmers.
Many dairy farmers will have already been working to exclude stock from waterways.
“It’s going to cause a bit of a shock in the Kaipara community. How are hill country farmers going to fence off all their streams, and how much land will they have to retire?”
“I personally am looking at retiring five hectares of land. I’ve bought that land, paid rates on it and so where is the Government’s contribution?”
He says the IKHMG has begun the process of engaging with farmers and landowners to get them thinking about creating an environmental plan for their farm.
“Landowning farmers are already stretched for time and money. There could be half a million dollars in fencing to be done for some landowners to meet the new rules.”
The IKHMG covers all waterways that feed into the Kaipara Harbour, from Rodney to the Kaipara and Whangarei districts.
Earle is encouraging rural communities to get together and form their own landcare groups as a platform to be able to seek assistance and advice from the IKHMG.
“There are multiple sources of funding out there to pay for plants and fencing, from the One Billion Trees programme to council sources,” he says.
“But most farmers don’t know how to access them or they aren’t familiar with filling out forms. That’s where we can help.”