The proposed plan change covers all land in the Waikato River and Waipa River catchments. New rules to reduce sediment, bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus entering water bodies are already in place and may be changed further through council hearings running in 2019. Existing rules in the Waikato Regional Plan continue to apply, e.g. farm dairy effluent rules, earthwork rules and point-source discharge rules (urban areas and industry).
The plan change for the next 10 years is the first step to achieve the Vision and Strategy/Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato of making the river swimmable and viable for food collection along the entire length of the river. The Vision and Strategy was adopted by the Government as part of Treaty Settlement legislation.
Hearings for Healthy Rivers Plan Change 1
What you need to know
Information about the hearings is listed on the Waikato Regional Council website here.
The hearings are in three blocks. The first is mainly science and economics, the second is mainly about land change restrictions and managing nitrogen (20 May to mid-July 2019), and the third is farm environment plans and sub-catchment planning (alternative approaches - August).
If you made a submission and have a date to appear before the hearings panel to support your submission, here’s what you need to do:
Before you go
- Refresh your memory of your submission - You can expand on the points you made in your submission, but you cannot add new ideas
- Put your key points in writing
- Make sure your name, address and submitter number are on the top of the page
- Make sure you say what changes you want the hearings panel to make
- Send your document to the hearings manager Steve Rice 10 days before you are due to appear
- If your evidence is longer than three pages of text, then you need to write a summary.
As part of the Healthy Rivers’ process DairyNZ has submitted its own evidence. This evidence and DairyNZ’s original submission was formed with feedback with local farmers.
DairyNZ’s evidence for block 2 of the Healthy Rivers hearings is summarised below – this might be helpful when collating your own evidence.
- A response relating to the long-term view, including reference to DairyNZ / Beef+Lamb NZ discussions on allocation (authored by David Burger, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader). Download
- An overview of DairyNZ's evidence covering: key aspects of the staged approach; Farm Environment Plans and Industry-agreed Good Farming Principles; Nitrogen Reference Points and the 75th percentile; and implementation issues (authored by Justine Young, DairyNZ senior policy advisor). Download
- Mitigations outside Overseer – addressing the role of constructed wetlands and plantain which are not included in Overseer currently. (Aslan Wright-Stow, DairyNZ environment and catchment manager [Download] and Bruce Thorrold, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader [Download])
- Implications for farmers if they have to reduce N more than current plan change requires – why the research, including P21 results, can’t be extrapolated instantly to all farmers. (Bruce Thorrold and Graeme Doole, DairyNZ principal economist). Download
On the day
- Remember you are there to help the panel make a well-informed decision. You are the expert about your farm and what will work in the long term to make the water swimmable and safe to take food from.
- Bring 10 copies to the hearing, single sided
- You are expected to present a summary only – the panel is pre-reading everything
- Consider presenting pictures/maps - If it’s not already in your evidence. It can help tell your story if you have something visual to make your point, e.g. photos, farm map, key page out of any existing farm plan etc.
- Keep your presentation to about half the length of your time slot. This gives the panel time to ask you questions. Ideally this is a conversation between you and the panel about how the current rules impact you, and what would work better.
If you haven’t sent your evidence document in time (10 days before your time slot)
- Give hearings manager Steve Rice a call – he can help with printing copies out if you give him plenty of notice, or reschedule you
- Be prepared for the panel to say ‘sorry, we can’t be expected to read this on the spot’
Who can help?
Hearings manager Steve Rice – he is there to make things run smoothly Mob: 0211912346. Office: 07 8465267 email@example.com
General: DairyNZ Catchment Engagement Leader Caleb Higham 027 706 7699 firstname.lastname@example.org
General: DairyNZ Regional Leader Wilma Foster 021 246 2147 email@example.com
Policy: DairyNZ policy advisor Justine Young firstname.lastname@example.org 027 237 0360
Go to Waikato Regional Council website here.
- Section 42A report. This is prepared to help guide the hearings panel. It gives a summary for each block of hearings for PC1 and recommendations for changes – this is called the Council Officers report or section 42A report (the council is required to produce this under s42 of the RMA).
- DairyNZ evidence, listed on the council website under ‘submitter evidence’. For an overview of the technical evidence and a summary of the DairyNZ approach see Evidence of Justine Young.
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 sub-catchment. Council maps are available here. 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 sub-catchment, 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.
Useful links and documents
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.
- 17 September 2018 - further submissions received
- Late 2018 - Pre-hearings meetings
- Late 2018 - Staff report on submissions
- Early 2019 - Public hearings begin
- Mid-late 2019 - The Hearings Panel will deliberate and provide their decision
- Early 2020 - Council will make their decision on the recommendations of the Hearings Panel
Submitters may appeal the final decision to the Environment Court - if no appeal is made the Plan becomes operative
Changes across whole catchment
- Changes to some values - e.g. that wetlands and springs (as well as rivers) are seen as treasures
- Most rule deadlines extended by 20 months
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.
- Certification programme for Nutrient Advisors and Farm Environment Planners is underway.
- WRC will run workshops to help you prepare.
- Land management training courses are being run for consultants to upskill in this area.
- A portal is being developed for registration of all farms above 2ha and for lodging nitrogen reference points.
For further help please contact:
Caleb Higham, Catchment Engagement Leader