Otago Regional Council (ORC) are proposing new draft land and water rules that will affect your farm business.
The proposal includes consents for dairy farming land use in some parts of the region, and consent requirements for farmers applying nitrogen fertilizer of 100kg/ha, or with stocking rates of 2.5cows/ha.
These proposals are in addition to existing requirements for consents related to winter grazing and effluent and in addition to the requirements for freshwater farm plans under national regulations.
We are working with our partners across the primary sector and will develop a comprehensive submission on your behalf. We will engage with ORC on these issues beyond the official feedback process.
Your voice and feedback is important in influencing changes to this proposal with ORC. We strongly encourage farmers to provide personal feedback on the proposal which will have a significant impact for you and all farmers in the region.
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'll be making a submission on the proposed rules and will voice our concerns about the lack of evidence justifying some of these rules. We will also put forward our own evidence to inform the next phase of the process, which is the formal notification of a full regional plan in mid 2024. We are collaborating with Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and dairy processing companies, including 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 ORC's proposed rules at the national level with the new government.
What's being proposed by ORC
ORC is proposing stronger regulations for farmers in the region, including:
- Resource consents for all dairy and dairy support farms in some parts of the region, with costlier consents required for those who exceed a stocking rate of 2.5 cows per effective hectare and/or a nitrogen fertiliser cap of 100 kgs per hectare per year.
- Restrictions on permitted activity takes for stock drinking water, where a water body reaches a minimum flow or minimum level.
- Stronger permitted activity standards for feedlots, feed pads and stockholding areas, silage and offal pits, and for pasture-based wintering.
- Stronger rules for activities in proximity to wetlands.
- A maximum duration of 10 years for consented water takes.
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
Consents for dairy farms in some parts of the region
ORC is proposing that dairy and dairy support farms in specific parts of the region will require either a ‘controlled activity’ or ‘discretionary activity’ consent.
Consent required for dairy farming and dairy support which allows all activities on farm to be considered in order to require reductions in contaminant losses. Controlled activity status with conditions:
- the dairy farm is existing
- has a freshwater farm plan
- average winter stocking rate no greater than 2.5 cows per hectare
- livestock are wintered on the land
- synthetic Nitrogen fertiliser cap of 100 kgs per hectare per year.
A controlled activity consent must be granted however, council can place conditions on the consent related to the matters for which they have reserved control.
How does this impact you?
For those farms that do not meet these criteria, a ‘discretionary activity’ consent is proposed. A discretionary activity consent would allow ORC to decide whether or not to grant a consent, and what conditions it would impose if the consent is granted. As a result it will lead to uncertainty and cost for farmers.
This rule would apply to the following Freshwater Management Units (FMU) or Rohe. To identify which applies to your farm, check the ORC website.
- Taieri FMU
- Dunedin FMU
- North Otago
- Clutha FMU
- Lower Clutha Rohe
- Manuherekia Rohe
DairyNZ is opposed to these consent requirements. We are in the process of working with our primary sector partners to identify an alternative, risk-based approach. In the meantime, if you are in one of the impacted FMU or Rohe and providing feedback, consider whether you:
- Agree or disagree that some dairy and dairy support farms should require a higher level of scrutiny, in those parts of the region where nitrogen is an issue?
- Agree or disagree with the proposal that stocking rates and fertiliser application is the best way of managing risk to water from dairying?
- Have an alternative proposal for how ORC should manage nitrogen leaching on farms?
Primary Production chapter
ORC is proposing new conditions for a number of permitted activities. These will apply across all of Otago. Under these proposed rules, if you cannot meet the standards outlined below, you will be required to apply for a discretionary activity consent to do or continue to do these activities.
Feedlots, feed pads and stockholding areas
Permitted activities subject to conditions, including;
- 50 metre setback from a wetland, the Coastal Marine Area , or the bed of a lake or river; and
- 20 metre setback from a bore or soak hole; and
- Not within a critical source area, above subsurface drainage or in a drinking water protection zone; and
- Standards for construction, e.g. for smaller/young cattle a base of 400mm of bark, woodchip or similar material and for older/larger cattle, sealed and effluent collected and disposed of in accordance with effluent rules.
Permitted activity subject to conditions, including:
- Restrictions on slope (10 degrees or less), time used (max. 60 days per year) and size (5 hectares for landholdings less than 500 hectares or 1% or 30 hectares for landholdings greater than 500 hectares, whichever is lesser)
- Not within a critical source area or in forage crop
- 50-metre setback from a wetland, open drain, bore, soak hole, coastal marine area, or bed of lake or river
- 50 metre setback from sensitive water bodies (including outstanding water body)
- Requirement to re-sow as soon as practicable (where significant de-vegetation has occurred)
Paddocks used for pasture-based wintering
Permitted activity subject to conditions, including:
- Not within a critical source area
- 10 metre setback from wetland, open drain, bore, soak hole, coastal marine area, or bed of lake or river
- 20 metre setback from sensitive water bodies (including outstanding water body)
- Requirement to revegetate as soon as practicable (where significant de-vegetation has occurred)
Restricted intensification of land use
Discretionary consent will be required for conversion to a higher intensity land use (consents will only be able to be granted if it will result in a decrease to the contaminant loads in the catchment) including:
- Consent required for conversion to dairy farm or dairy support land;
- Consent required for conversion of forestry land to pastoral land use;
- Consent required for increase in area of land irrigated.
Silage storage and offal pits
Will be subject to additional permitted activity conditions including:
- Either a 250 cubic metre or 500 cubic metre volume restriction (silage only)
- Preventing liquid from the activity entering a surface water body (silage only)
- Preventing animal access
- Preventing rain (silage only) and surface runoff entering the pit or stack
- 50 metre setback from wetland, open drain, bore, soak hole, coastal marine area, or bed of lake or river
- Not in drinking water protection zone, critical source area or flood prone area.
Will also be subject to additional permitted activity conditions including:
- Where no local authority collection is available, and the landholding is more than 50 kilometres from the nearest transfer station
- Landholding is greater than 20 hectares
- Maximum volume of the pit is 50 cubic metres
- Preventing surface runoff entering the pit
- Restrictions on type of refuse discharged, e.g. must be from the property the pit is located on and not include agrichemicals (or their containers), agricultural plastic wrap, septic tank sludge, dairy farm sludge or animal carcasses
- Setbacks from wetland, open drain, bore, soak hole, coastal marine area, or bed of lake or river (50 metres for farm landfills, 20 metres for discharge of agricultural waste)
- Not in drinking water protection zone, critical source area
- Pit is covered over to a depth of 0.5 metres when no longer in use.
ORC is proposing permitted activity conditions for stock drinking water. This includes restrictions on takes for stock drinking water where a water body ‘minimum flows’ have been reached.
ORC is proposing that consents for the taking of water should be approved for a maximum duration of 10 years, with some exceptions.
ORC is also proposing to set tighter environmental bottom lines (minimum flows and takes limits) for water takes from surface and ground water.
Please note: while we will be submitting to ensure the rules provide for stock drinking water, dairy shed washdown and the proposal for 10 year consents, we do not submit on individual minimum flows and take limits. Those irrigating should check how these proposals apply to your individual irrigation water takes and discuss these concerns with your resource management consultant.
Wetlands (all Otago)
The proposed rules define a wider range of natural wetlands than is required under national direction. The definitions used in the proposed rules will mean that areas you may not consider to be ‘wetlands’ are captured under the rules because they are permanently or intermittently wet areas that support plants or animals that are adapted to wet conditions. Under the proposed rules you will require resource consent for some activities in these areas, including:
- all kinds of cultivation
- herbicide spraying, other than spot-spraying with hand-held, non-motorised equipment
- earthworks other than minor works such as installing fenceposts and utility lines
- installing new sub-surface drainage and open drains.
What are the next steps?
- Feedback from this process will inform the next phase of development of the Otago Land and Water Regional Plan, after which it will be formally opened for official consultation in June 2024. Farmers will have another chance to have their say at this point.
- DairyNZ will participate in the development process and present our case during hearings. Between now and then, we will continue to work with ORC to discuss our concerns and possible solutions once the feedback period has ended.
Questions on this topic?
Contact David Cooper
Principal Regional Policy Advisor
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