DairyNZ to Appeal Plan Change 5 at the High Court
At the end of June we sent you an email about Environment Canterbury’s formal adoption of the recommendations of the independent Hearing Panel on Plan Change (PC5) to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan. The plan change was publicly notified on 24 June.
DairyNZ will be appealing the Plan Change to the High Court, specifically the Schedule 28 Good Management Practice Modelling Rules, that characterize how dairy farm systems should perform when operating at Good Management Practice.
Our key concern is that Environment Canterbury’s modelling approach does not accurately capture the dynamic nature of dairy farm systems, and will increase the cost and complexity of consent processes without producing any environmental gains. The increased compliance costs have the potential to make agricultural production uneconomic in many parts of the Canterbury region.
Because this is an appeal to the High Court, we can only appeal on points of law. A legal review has been completed which indicates that the Hearing Panel has made some legal errors when assessing the scientific robustness of ECan’s modelling approach. The appeal process will enable us to test whether the Hearing Panel appropriately considered all relevant information when making its final decisions. Several other primary sector organisations are also appealing on similar issues.
We still need to work with you and the regional council on implementing the Plan Change, but we also want to make sure that the science behind PC5 is robust. You can find more information on our website.
For information about Plan Change 5 including appeals click here.
Plan Change 5 - Key info
DairyNZ supports the approach in PC5 to define good management practices (GMPs), using Farm Environment Plans to implement and monitor the uptake of GMPs.
Concerned the timeframes for compliance of property-scale nitrogen loss limits were too tight, we asked they be extended by 12 months. The Hearing Panel agreed, and now the timeframes for compliance are as follows:
- Compliance with the Baseline GMP loss rate is not required until after 30 June 2020.
- Compliance with the GMP loss rate is not required until after:
- 1 July 2017 in the Lake Zones
- 1 January 2018 in the Orange Zones
- 1 July 2018 in Red Zones
- 1 January 2019 in Green or Light Blue Zones
In addition, for those who need a consent under the operative Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP), the requirement for achieving baseline GMP Loss Rates (as calculated by the Farm Portal) under PC5, will not be required until these provision are beyond legal appeal. However, consent holders will still be held to their Nitrogen Baseline in line with the currently operative nutrient management rules.
DairyNZ supported, at the conceptual level, the development of the Farm Portal, although had concerns with some of the equations used to model the on-farm GMPs. We believe that OVERSEER estimated nitrogen losses from a farm operating at GMP may differ significantly from the values derived from these equations. During the hearing we proposed an alternative nitrogen fertiliser model which was not accepted. Our concerns have not changed and we are committed to working with farmers and Ecan to resolve these issues as they arise.
We have some concerns about the implications of the recommended changes to the irrigation equations within the Farm Portal. We consider the compliance requirements under PC5 may be unachievable for irrigated dairy farmers with current irrigation infrastructure. We believe farmers may have to fund considerable costs over a short timeframe to comply with the plan change requirements.
Alternative consenting process
ECan have provided a provision for an alternative consent option if the model used in Farm Portal creates numbers that don’t make sense. Farmers who encounter any of the below situations should contact their certified nutrient management advisor for assistance:
- when a nutrient budget cannot be generated
- when the Farm Portal cannot produce a GMP loss rate, or
- when the GMP loss rate produced by the Farm Portal is considered to be ‘erroneous’.
Our focus is to continue to support dairy farmers through the implementation of PC5. We will be working with ECan to get absolute clarity on the implications of the plan changes and the requirements for dairy farmers in the affected catchments. We will communicate regularly on what implementation measures are being developed and what you need to do to meet the new PC5 requirements.
If you have any concerns or want advice, please contact IrrigationNZ or DairyNZ.
The LWRP has new rules for farming activities relating to nutrient management. The aim of these is to maintain current water quality and prevent further increases in nutrient losses before the catchment limit setting process is finalised. This will be done through a Zone Committee and community consultation. The results will form a sub-regional plan change to the LWRP.
What does this mean for farmers?
All farmers in Canterbury need to operate within the farming activity rules, unless you are in the Hurunui & Waiau catchment or Selwyn Te Waihora. Sub-regional planning processes which can result in different rules are underway in Hinds Plains, South Canterbury Coastal Streams, Wairewa and Waitaki. However, the current Land and Water Regional Plan rules still apply to these areas until a sub-regional Plan Changes become operative.
To continue to farm within nutrient management rules, most dairy farmers will require:
- a farming activity resource consent
- a nitrogen baseline and
- a farm environment plan.
The rules vary depending on which colour nutrient allocation zone your farm is in.
Under the proposed Plan Change 5 the trigger for a consent requirement will change. Please see below:
Under the Operative Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) rules are:
|Under the proposed Plan Change 5 rules (PC5) will be:|
|A Farm Environmental Plan||A Farm Environmental Plan|
A Nitrogen Baseline (average loss between 2009-13)
No Increase above Nitrogen Baseline
* Winter grazing definition = means the grazing of cattle within the period 1 May to 30 September, where cattle are contained for break-feeding of in-situ brassica and root vegetable, forage crops or for consuming supplementary feed that has been brought onto the property.
Plan Change 5
Plan Change 5 (PC5) to the Land and Water Regional Plan will require farmers to manage nutrient losses to help improve water quality in the region.
PC5 incorporates a Farm Portal: an online tool for estimating nitrogen losses from farming activities operated at good management practice (GMP).
Independent Hearing Panel recommendations to PC5 were recently adopted by Environment Canterbury (ECan).
We acknowledge the significant water quality and quantity issues facing Canterbury and we’re working with ECan to support farmers in understanding and implementing these changes.
For more information about PC5 visit the ECan website.
Terms you need to know
- Nitrogen Baseline
- Farm Environment Plans
- Farming activity resource consent
- Matrix of Good Management Practice