The Waikato Regional Council is changing the regional plan. These changes will affect all dairy farmers and communities in the Waikato and Waipa catchments.
The plan change for the next 10 years is the first step towards meeting the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River/Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato over the next 80 years.
The plan change will set policies and rules to reduce sediment, bacteria and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) entering water bodies, including groundwater, in the Waikato and Waipa River catchments, an area of 1.1 million hectares.
The withdrawn area - what's happening now?
The variation to Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Plan Change 1 reinstates the area in the north-east of the Waikato River catchment that was withdrawn in November 2016 to enable full consultation with Pare Hauraki as an impacted iwi. Consultation has now taken place and on 10 April 2018 the Waikato Regional Council notified the Plan Change 1 Variation which covers this area. Submissions close on 23 May.
Variation 1 makes amendments to Proposed Plan Change 1. Here is a summary of the changes:
- Amendments to reinstate the previously withdrawn provisions and area
- Amendments to key dates for landowners, including dates for Registration and providing a Nitrogen Reference Point, as well as dates for Farm Environment Plans and stock exclusion
- Amendments arising from consultation with Pare Hauraki.
What Plan Change 1 means if you're buying or selling
Buying or selling in the Waikato or Waipa catchments?
If you are buying or selling in the Waikato/Waipa catchment and are wondering what Plan Change 1 means for you. As part of a sales transaction, important information will be required. You will need to prove what has happened on the farm in 2014/15 and 2015/16 benchmark years. Read the fact sheet here.
Purchasers need to ensure they have verified farm records as part of the due diligence process. In 2019 each farm will have a Nitrogen Reference Point allocated which must be adhered to. Read the fact sheet here.
DairyNZ is working with rural professionals and the Waikato Regional Council to ensure farm advisors are aware of the new rules. The Council website has summary pamphlets about other aspects of the Healthy Rivers Plan Change. Find out more here.
Frequently asked questions
Where do I get information and find certified advisors with a good understanding of farm systems?
Developing Farm Environment Plans and Nitrogen Reference Points requires a certain level of farm systems experience. Waikato Regional Council (WRC) is working through the criteria in terms of qualifications and experience required for advisors who will be completing Farm Environment Plans and Nitrogen Reference Points. Names of accredited advisors will be posted on the WRC Healthy Rivers web page.
In the meantime, a Nutrient Management Adviser Certification Programme has been established to accredit nutrient management advisers in New Zealand.
For more information about the programme and a list of certified advisers click here.
Do I need legal advice?
As with any sale or purchase, we recommend that you undertake due diligence and contact your lawyers for independent advice on how the proposed plan change might affect any sale or purchase agreement.
How will the difference between current N loss and the 2019 Nitrogen Reference Point be calculated?
The nitrogen loss figure dairy farmers currently have from their nutrient advisor or milk supply company is the nitrogen leaching figure from the current version of Overseer.
The Nitrogen Reference Point to be used after 31 March 2019, will be the figure that farms must meet, and will be based on the version of Overseer available at that time. Therefore, the N loss figure used at present is not the definitive Nitrogen Reference Point for the farm, but rather an indicator.
To read more about Nitrogen Reference Points click here.
How will the Nitrogen Reference Point, and the information used to calculate it, be verified?
The information entered into Overseer to produce the nitrogen leaching figure will be based on data input methodology outlined by Waikato Regional Council in the plan change. Under the proposed plan, the WRC will use the NRP information supplied as a benchmark to work out the 75th percentile nitrogen leaching value for dairy farms.
Any industry scheme or consents will have quality control processes in place. A cross-section of Farm Environment and Nitrogen Reference Point plans will be audited.
How will non-compliance be dealt with?
Non-compliance will be dealt with in the same way it is for any other form of non-compliance e.g. effluent.
What happens if I want to intensify my farm system?
Where are the priority catchments and what are the development timeframes?
To see the Waikato Regional Council farm mapping tool click here.
This will show you which priority catchment you are in and the timeframes that you must meet. Note that if your farm is in the 75th percentile for nitrogen loss, then you are automatically in a priority one catchment.
Can 'off-setting' be used to manage overall N loss within a catchment?
Not under Plan Change 1. Instead, landowners can make adjustments within their own enterprise if it is in the same Fresh Water Management Unit (FMU). Upper, middle and lower Waikato River catchment and Waipa river catchment are all FMUs, and council maps are available. WRC defines ‘enterprise’ as one or more parcels of land held in single or multiple ownership to support the principle land use or land which the principle land use is reliant upon, and constitutes a single operating unit for the purposes of management. An enterprise is considered to be in a sub-catchment if more than 50 percent of that enterprise is within the sub-catchment.
For example, if you own two blocks of land and they are in the same Fresh Water Management Unit (FMU), you can have a Nitrogen Reference Point which covers an enterprise.
At the moment, Healthy Rivers Plan Change 1 doesn’t have trading or off-setting rules that allow for one landowner to increase discharges if another property decreases by the same amount. This is an idea that some people think should be used in the future.
For more information on Healthy Rivers with information sheets and answers to frequently asked questions click here.
Plan Change 1 Farm Environment Plans
Plan Change 1 requires a Farm Environment Plan to manage the risk of sediment, microbial pathogens, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Read the fact sheet here.
The landowner can choose whether to use data from 2014/15 or 2015/16. An accredited nutrient advisor will use information on a property’s nitrogen leaching losses, via OVERSEER© or another approved model. The council will receive this info from September 2018 with a deadline of March 2019.
It is in your interest to ensure you have documented farm records on production, feed and fertiliser inputs and stock numbers and movements for these years. This is because all land in the Waikato and Waipa River catchment is subject to new rules under Healthy Rivers Plan Change 1. There is no immediate need to supply anything to the council, but DairyNZ is advising farmers to have the farm records on hand.
In the future, the council may require these records to be produced. The Plan Change has a list of records that must be retained and provided to the council on request (see link below). Some activities are undertaken ‘on-farm’ and may not have invoices to prove what farm management practices took place. It is worth retaining other supporting documents, such as a diary showing stock movements to a runoff, dates crops were sown and grazed, nitrogen application dates and rates, etc.
Land use change rule
Another important rule to be aware of is the land use change rule which will require a resource consent. Read the fact sheet here.
The nitrogen reference point is the nitrogen loss number (units of kgN/ha/year) that is derived from a protocol compliant OVERSEER® file that describes the property or farm enterprise and farm practices in an agreed year or years developed by a Certified Farm Nutrient Advisor, using the current version of the OVERSEER® model (or another model approved by the Council) for the property or enterprise at the "reference" point in time.
What's happened so far?
In September 2016, Waikato Regional Council voted to publicly notify the Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 – Waikato and Waipa Catchments.
The plan was developed using a collaborative process with iwi project partners, farming sector and community representatives, non-government organisations and council who have worked together to shape a solution.
22 October 2016 - the proposed plan change was notified for public submissions.
8 March 2017 - Submissions closed at 5pm
- A summary of submissions is now available on the council website.
The process from here:
- Click here to view Summary of the proposed rules
- Visit the Healthy Rivers page at Waikato Regional Council here
- Click here to read DairyNZ's submission
- Click here to read all submissions
- Click here for the Healthy Rivers proposed catchment priority areas
Other activity underway
The industry will still need to work towards the rules as they were notified. It is likely that the plan may change as it works its way through the hearings and appeals process.
- The Farm Environment Plan template and guide are currently under development.
- Certification Plans for Nutrient Advisors and Farm Environment Planners are also underway.
- WRC will run sub-catchment field days.
- Land management training courses are being run for consultants to upskill in this area.
- The registration portal is being developed and will be online prior to the beginning of registration in September 2018.
For more background information on the Healthy Rivers process click here.
If you need more information, please contact Mike Bramley, Environmental Extension Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org