Our policy and advocacy work for farmers


8 min read

Overview Regulatory review Resource management reform Improving freshwater policy Climate targets and emissions pricing New technologies Strong biosecurity systems Workforce development How we approach advocacy Additional resources

We use our credible science and research to advocate for dairy farmers on the issues that matter most. We lead national and regional responses to key sector issues, monitor policy changes and risks, and engage with decision-makers to ensure farmer voices are heard and considered in policy processes.


Our current advocacy and policy work is focused on seven key areas. These priorities have been identified by dairy farmers as issues that are top of mind and require urgent attention. The seven areas are:

Establish a rural regulatory review panel

Minister and Ministry of Regulation announced, and first regulatory sector review confirmed. TBC whether this addresses issues facing farmers.

Resource management reform

Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts repealed. Fast-track consents processed underway and wider RMA reforms.

Improve freshwater policy

Freshwater NPS to be replaced. Amendments to Freshwater Farm Plan regulations pending. Regional council engagement ongoing.

Climate targets and emissions pricing

Independent review of methane science and targets announced in addition to existing Climate Change Commission review of targets. ETS amended to remove references to pricing agriculture. Regional council engagement ongoing.

Review regulation settings for new technologies

Legislation to be passed that will reform rules on gene technologies. TBC whether review of wider regulations addressing non-gene tech will take place.

Strong biosecurity systems

Zero confirmed M. bovis cases currently. OSPRI taking over M. bovis surveillance phase. MOU signed on Foot & Mouth Disease. Reform of Biosecurity Act still needed.

Workforce development

Accredited Employer Work Visa wage threshold paused at $29.66/hour rather than increased to the new median wage. Further work needed on other workforce issues.

Scroll down for more detailed information on each of the seven priorities.

1. Regulatory review

DairyNZ’s ‘View from the Cowshed’ survey found that:

  • 65 percent of farmers believe regulatory compliance is negatively impacting farm profitability.
  • 72 percent find current regulations impractical.
  • 59 percent highlighted the lack of cohesion between regulations.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

In 2023, we proposed the creation of an independent regulatory review panel that would include experienced farmers from across the agricultural sector. This aligned with the National Party’s commitment to establishing a permanent Rural Regulation Review Panel to assess all government regulations affecting farmers.

Progress update

The Government has appointed a Minister of Regulation (Hon David Seymour) and appointed a CEO to head this new Ministry. It has also announced it will initiate its first regulatory sector review before July 2024. Details are still to come as to how this might address regulatory issues facing farmers. DairyNZ will continue emphasising the importance of rural regulatory reform with the Government, as well as advocating on specific issues, e.g. resource management, climate change, and freshwater.

2. Resource management reform

Given farming’s unique connection to the environment, resource management legislation impacts the sector more than any other regulation.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

DairyNZ opposed the Natural and Built Environment Bill when it was introduced and then passed by the previous Government, and we supported its repeal by the new Government. This legislation would have significantly impacted dairy farmers’ operations, covering farming practices, freshwater access, and critical infrastructure development.

We seek resource management legislation that enables innovation, balances economic development and sustainable environmental management, and better manages conflicts. It should provide transparency and guidance on the setting of environmental limits and local decision-making to ensure consistency with national-level priorities. This is particularly important in the context of climate targets.

Progress update

The Government has repealed the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts. It has introduced a ‘fast-track approvals’ bill to speed up the process for a range of infrastructure, housing, and development projects, potentially including water storage. A wider RMA reform process is due to get underway soon. DairyNZ will continue to engage with Ministers and officials as this unfolds.

3. Improving freshwater policy

DairyNZ is committed to helping improve freshwater outcomes across all dairy catchments, building off the great work farmers have already been doing.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

We were concerned at the freshwater policy system introduced by the previous government. The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 (NPS-FM) did not sufficiently recognise primary production and made consent processes more complex. It was focused on nationally set, numerical bottom lines that we believe were impractical for farmers and wouldn’t deliver lasting environmental outcomes. Our advocacy over the past few years has sought change at national and local government levels on these issues and others, for example regulations relating to stock exclusion, winter grazing, and use of nitrogen fertiliser.

We seek:

  • A freshwater policy framework focused on environmental outcomes at a catchment level and that supports science-based on-farm actions that deliver against this.
  • Updates to the existing regulations for Freshwater Farm Plans (FWFPs) to enable them to be a practical tool in this catchment-focused framework, and to recognise existing industry-led farm environment plans that meet specific requirements.
  • With these updates, FWFPs could play a critical role as an alternative to consents or general rules.

We also remain involved in the regional plan development processes started under the previous Government, including submitting to councils on behalf of farmers. We are also seeking that regional councils pause their freshwater plan changes while the Government confirms national policy settings.

Progress update

  • The NPS-FM will be replaced with a new national framework developed over the next 18-24 months.
  • We will continue to engage with Ministers and officials, working alongside dairy companies, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers. For more on our efforts, see this summary.
  • We will also continue to engage with existing regional plan development processes to ensure sensible policy outcomes for farmers. We encourage farmers to get involved too – for more, see our regional advocacy pages.

4. Climate targets and emissions pricing

More than 70% of farmers surveyed in 2023 were concerned the public doesn’t appreciate how low emissions the dairy sector already is. Many farmers were also concerned that methane targets and agricultural emissions pricing should be fair.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

DairyNZ is committed to dairy farming playing its part in transitioning to a low-emissions economy alongside the rest of New Zealand. See our climate pages for more information.

We are advocating for fair and scientifically robust emissions targets that account for the warming impact of methane. See our climate change advocacy page for more information.

If agricultural emissions pricing is introduced, we think this should happen at the farm level, outside the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS legislation requires urgent changes to address this. We also want the Government to provide guidance to councils to manage their setting of local climate targets that are more ambitious than the national targets.

Progress update

The Government has announced it will:

  • Commission an independent review of methane science and targets for consistency with no additional warming from agricultural methane emissions. This follows a report submitted by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers in 2023 to the Climate Change Commission that looked at the relative contributions of different greenhouse gases to warming.
  • Finalise policy to keep agriculture out of the ETS. (No announcements have been made on agricultural pricing policy more broadly, but DairyNZ continues to monitor the situation).

Our views are regularly sought, including recently contributing technical expertise to MPI’s work to develop a nationally consistent greenhouse gas calculation methodology.

We have also been working with regional councils to strengthen their understanding of New Zealand’s climate change targets and the broader agricultural landscape.

The Climate Change Commission is also reviewing New Zealand’s 2050 targets this year (this is a five-yearly legislative requirement). Public consultation will take place from 8 April to 31 May, with the Commission providing its final advice to the Government by the end of 2024. For more, including to have your say, see the Commission’s website.

5. Regulation settings for new technologies

The rapid evolution of technology, for example to address environmental challenges such as climate change, presents opportunities and risks for New Zealand dairy farming.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

DairyNZ seeks a comprehensive review of existing regulations to better support the early adoption of new technologies such as methane inhibitors that will drive greater environmental outcomes for dairy farming.

We also believe New Zealand’s current legislation is not aligned with new advances in science, including gene editing. A forward-thinking regulatory approach is required that considers the opportunities and risks specific to individual products or applications, rather than generic controls.

Progress update

The Government has confirmed it will pass legislation to reform New Zealand’s rules around gene technologies by the end of 2025. The new rules will be future-focused and based on managing the risks of these technologies rather than focusing solely on the methods of genetic modification. A new regulator will oversee the system and ensure ethical and cultural concerns are well-managed.

We anticipate further Government consultation on these issues during 2024 and will advocate on dairy farmers’ behalf to ensure positive outcomes for the sector.

6. Strong biosecurity systems

Strong biosecurity systems, backed by ongoing investment, are crucial to the future prosperity of the dairy sector and our natural environment. This includes robust border controls, comprehensive post-border response, disease management and surveillance programmes, and effective awareness campaigns.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

DairyNZ has urged the Government to review the Biosecurity Act to make sure it is fit for purpose, appropriately funded, and effectively involves all participants.

Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is the largest biosecurity incursion we have faced in New Zealand. There are currently zero active confirmed properties in New Zealand, and this is in part due to the diligence of farmers. New cases can still pop up though, so continuing to follow good biosecurity practices is essential.

DairyNZ, other industry partners and the Government are developing an operational agreement for foot and mouth disease (FMD), New Zealand’s single biggest specific biosecurity threat. We seek to understand the full economic impact of a potential FMD incursion, to agree fair and equitable Crown/industry cost shares to support farmers through a response.

DairyNZ, with other OSPRI funders, is involved in reviewing NAIT funding arrangements, the new 10-year TB plan, and OSPRI governance settings. A review of OSPRI’s Information Systems Strategy Plan is also underway for the work programme that is intended to replace and integrate OSPRI’s animal disease management systems and the NAIT traceability system.

Progress update

Good progress has been made on M. bovis eradication with disease management agency OSPRI taking over the long-term surveillance phase. DairyNZ biosecurity staff have been closely involved in this process.

DairyNZ has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government and other industry partners for foot and mouth disease (FMD). This confirms our mutual commitment to developing an operational agreement.

7. Workforce development

Access to a skilled workforce is a pressing concern for dairy farmers, with approximately 26% reporting a shortfall in staff, and only 29% able to find suitable recruits on a regular basis.

What we’re advocating for on our farmers’ behalf

  • Dairy farmers should have access to international employees, with sustainable wages that better align with industry averages and the skills and experience of those employees.
  • Visa processing times should be realistic to reduce the risk of farms being short-staffed.
  • International employees on work visas should be able to access vocational education at domestic fee levels to support productivity growth and manage reputational risk to New Zealand.
  • International employees who show commitment to our dairy sector should also have robust pathways to residence so they can plan their futures with certainty.

We are working closely with Federated Farmers on these critical employment needs.

Progress update

The Government has paused the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) wage threshold at $29.66 per hour rather than increasing it to the new median wage of $31.61. This relieved some wage pressure. However, we continue to advocate alongside Federated Farmers for better outcomes for farmers.

How we approach advocacy

DairyNZ’s policy and advocacy work is underpinned by our purpose – to progress a positive future for dairy farming.

We seek to understand the issues that matter most to dairy farmers, and we use that understanding, alongside our credible science, to advocate for better outcomes for dairy farmers and the sector. Our extension, science and policy teams work together across DairyNZ and with farmers and other partners to achieve this. Find out more about how we approach advocacy and policy.

Last updated: Apr 2024

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