Northland - proposed land and water rules

Dairy-focused webinar What you can do How to provide feedback What DairyNZ is doing What's being proposed Key concerns Next steps Additional resources

Northland Regional Council (NRC) has consulted on a new draft Regional Plan that will affect your farm business. Dairy NZ is working on your behalf to represent the views of the dairy and primary sectors, and our rural communities to the council.

The new plan's notification was scheduled for late 2024 but has been put on hold in anticipation of the replacement of the NPS-FM 2020.

Central Government announced in December 2023 theiran intention to replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM 2020) over the next 18-24 months. Due to this, the date that councils are required to notify a freshwater plan change has been extended by three years, to 31 December 2027, leaving more time for regional councils and communities for this work.

Find out more about the changes to freshwater regulations proposed by central Government.

NRCs consultation closed on 31 March 2024.

The current proposal includes consents for all dairy farming through a controlled activity for existing farm effluent management discharge to land, changes in the water allocation, and significant increases in setback and stock exclusion requirements from waterways and highly erodible land.

As highlighted in NRC’s consultation, these options are all up for discussion and your feedback is important to influence changes that work for you.

What you can do

  • Understand what NRC is proposing and how it will affect you and your farming business. You can do this by joining an on-line event organised by NRC throughout the consultation period, or talk directly with NRC staff at summer community events such as A&P shows. Visit the Wai it Matters website for further information.
  • We have also summarised the rules that are most relevant for dairy farmers.
  • Review the draft rules and provide your feedback directly to NRC. If you don't wish to provide feedback to NRC, you can email us with your concerns, and we will include them in our submission.
  • Discuss any concerns you have with your elected NRC councillors.
  • Find out more about the events and how to submit feedback on the NRC website.

How to provide feedback

The most important part is having your say. How you provide your feedback is up to you. Dairy NZ recommends providing written feedback to capture your voice as you tell it. Discussions in NRC workshops and with your local councillors are also great ways of ensuring your issues are captured. Here are a few tips:

  • Highlight the impacts – How will a 5 or 10 metre setback impact your farm compared to the 3m already required by national regulations? What are the real costs, impacts and challenges with such a proposal.
  • Show what’s already happening – What are you already doing for freshwater? What reporting and compliance requirements do you already meet, and what voluntary actions are you taking on farm to improve water quality?
  • Provide alternatives for council to consider - Dairy NZ, alongside other primary sector groups, will be developing alternatives that are more workable. If you see an opportunity to change something to work better for you, please let NRC know (or reach out to Dairy NZ for us to consider alongside our feedback).

What DairyNZ is doing

  • We are working on your behalf to represent the views of the dairy and primary sectors, and our rural communities.
  • We are discussing technical dairy issues directly with NRC policy staff.
  • We are working on hosting an event specifically for dairy farmers with NRC explaining their proposal. This will take place on the 5th of December.
  • We'll be making a submission on the draft rules. We are collaborating with Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Fonterra to present a coordinated response.
  • In addition to our work on this regional proposal, we will address our concerns about the overarching National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which guides some of NRC's proposed rules at the national level with the new government.

What's being proposed by Northland Regional Council

NRC is proposing stronger regulations for farmers in the region, including:

  • Resource consents for all dairy farms through farm dairy effluent applied to land rules. Existing permitted activity farms will be required to apply for a consent, and consent to discharge to water will not be renewed.
  • Changes to the region’s water allocation regime, notably capturing 20% of the available allocation to contribute to economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing for Māori.
  • Significant changes to stock exclusion setbacks from waterbodies, considering up to 10-meter setbacks from waterbodies.
  • Stronger rules for activities in proximity to wetlands.
  • Applying stock exclusion requirements to highly erodible land (Consent to Graze steeper land >25 degree slope). More information on this proposal can be found on the Wai it Matters website - draft 'Have your say on stock exclusion' document.

View the Northland regional Council's full proposal: The draft Freshwater Plan Change: Have your say

Please note: The provisions highlighted below are a snapshot of those proposed. While these are key issues they are not exclusive and are not the only matters DairyNZ will be submitting on.

Key concerns and what this means for you

Managing erosion-prone land

There are currently no rules in the regional plan requiring stock to be excluded from areas of highly erodible land. Council is proposing rules through a map restricting what areas farmers can graze stock on.

  • There are two proposed maps showing high erosion risk and severe erosion risk.
  • NRC are seeking feedback on whether land >25 degrees should be excluded from grazing.
  • Alongside grazing restrictions, new rules are being proposed to tightly control vegetation clearance, earthworks, and land preparation.

Dairy NZ has concerns around the evidence base and maps which are used to capture certain areas of the region. Dairy NZ will work with our primary sector partners to propose more sensible ways of managing erosion-prone land.

Refer to discussion document Setbacks and stock exclusion - Northland Regional Council.

Stock around waterways

NRC are looking to adopt more stringent rules around stock exclusion than their current rules. These rules are also more stringent than the national stock exclusion regulations. Some of the key issues include:

  • Waterway setbacks of up to 3, 5 or 10m to keep stock away from most of Northlands waterways.
  • These stock exclusion areas around waterways would need to be replanted with native riparian vegetation.
  • Whether or not an averaging approach should be used compared to a blanket setback distance.
  • Under the proposed 10m setback approach they have estimated an annual cost between $12,600 and $24,500 per farm per year to comply (excluding any riparian planting and maintenance).

Dairy NZ has concerns around the evidence base for such blanket restrictions, alongside the costs estimated for the proposal. Dairy NZ will be working alongside our primary sector partners to propose a more reasonable way to manage waterways.

Refer to discussion document Setbacks and stock exclusion - Northland Regional Council.

Effluent Management

NRC are proposing some significant changes to the way they manage effluent for dairy farms. Some of the key changes are:

  • Removal of the permitted activity option, making all farm dairy effluent operations a consented activity.
  • Prohibiting farm dairy effluent discharge to water.
  • Introducing matters of control through your consent which can control how many cows you have, the type of system you use and setbacks from boundaries, dwellings, waterways and water takes.

Dairy NZ supports farmers having effluent systems that are designed to industry developed standards which seeks to ensure systems are sized and designed appropriately for the farm's needs. DairyNZ is concerned that farmers who have done the right thing will still require a consent.

Refer to draft Freshwater Plan Change, Section C.6.3 Production land discharges.

Water allocation

NRC have developed a separate engagement document for water allocation. What is being proposed in summary is NRC are considering setting aside 20% of unallocated water to be used for environmental enhancement, marae and papakainga, or developing Māori land.

You can read more about this in The draft Freshwater Plan Change: Targeted Water Allocation Policy.

Other changes to the water allocation framework are the removal of the controlled activity rule previously used to consent existing water takes in the region. Those that do not meet the permitted 30m3 for shed use washdown and cooling will be required to apply for a consent.

Expanding requirements for assessing impacts on cultural values

NRC are proposing changes to the way impacts on Māori cultural values are considered to comply with requirements under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. The changes will be visible through the additional requirements for resource consent applicants to assess cultural impacts that affect tāngata whenua values for freshwater.

For example, when undertaking your consent for effluent discharges to land, one of the matters of control includes Effects on tāngata whenua values and practices.

What are the next steps?

  • Feedback from this process will guide NRC’s thinking for the next phase. The plan will then be formally notified and opened for official consultation in late 2024. You will have another chance to have your say at this point.
  • DairyNZ will participate in this next process and present our case during hearings. Between now and then, we will continue to work with NRC to discuss our concerns and possible solutions once the feedback period has ended.

Questions on this topic?

Contact Carina Ross
Senior Policy Advisor

Last updated: Mar 2024
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