The government is consulting on freshwater farm plans and the consultation document seeks feedback on options that will inform the development of freshwater farm plan regulations under part 9A of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2020 (RMA).
Engagement on the proposals runs until 26 September 2021.
The industry draft submission is attached here for your review.
What is a freshwater farm plan?
Freshwater farm plans will identify clear outcomes or goals to meet – with the outcomes applying to farm practice, ecosystem health and the wider catchment. The plans will need to demonstrate how the outcomes will be achieved and will also include a risk and impact assessment and actions to address those risks or impacts.
The government wants to improve freshwater quality through regulated outcomes. These outcomes will be reflected in all plans and include:
Detailed content information is available here
Delivery of freshwater farm plans
Freshwater farm plans will be delivered through ZespriGAP with the aim to drive efficiencies in process and costs, and deliver robust, quality plans to growers.
Zespri is updating ZespriGAP and as part of this will develop an Environment Module which will include the freshwater farm plan requirements along with market access and sustainability monitoring.
Further updates will be rolled out over the next two years to update ZespriGAP to align with the new version of GLOBALG.A.P (version 6).
Certifying freshwater farm plans
The government is proposing another level of compliance called certification – this would sit between ZespriGAP and the auditing process. Certification ensures that the requirements of freshwater farm plans comply with regulations
The government is proposing that this is done by people appointed by regional councils after either going through training and accreditation at a national or regional level.
Our preferred approach is for ZespriGAP to meet the requirements of certification (instead of an individual). This would be a more efficient and cost-effective approach for growers.
However, if MfE doesn’t back group certification, freshwater farm plans will need to be certified by individual certifiers.
The role of the auditor is different to the certifier. The auditor’s role is limited to auditing how the farm complies with its freshwater farm plan – for example, have the actions listed been completed.
Individuals could be both a certifier and an auditor if they meet the standards for both however, they could not certify and audit the same freshwater farm plan.
The government is proposing that regional councils appoint auditors who have already been accredited by an existing accreditation body OR establishing a specific national accreditation scheme for freshwater farm plan auditors, from which regional councils would appoint auditors to operate in their region.
Zespri is proposing ZespriGAP is used to meet the proposed audit requirements. This will allow Zespri to track progress across the industry and better understand where additional information or support may be required.
Zespri is reviewing the auditing model as part of the ZespriGAP update to ensure it remains suitable for existing and proposed regulations.
When will freshwater farm plans be required?
Freshwater farm plans will not be required across the country all at once. This is due to having enough resources such as certifiers, auditors, advisors and regional councils to implement the freshwater farm plan system.
The government is proposing that freshwater farm plans will be phased in by mid-2022 to 2025 and it is likely that orchards in at-risk catchments will be a priority.
What will freshwater farm plans cost?
This will depend on the decisions that the government make and Zespri’s delivery plan. More information will become available over the coming months.
Multi land users
While it is expected that there will be generic parts to a freshwater farm plan – farm map, identification of land use etc at this stage it is likely that for multi land users there will be a requirement for an individual freshwater plan. An example being – a multi land user has the following land uses on their property – vegetables, dairy and kiwifruit. This would mean three separate plans – NZGAP (EMS), Fonterra’s Tiaki and Zespri Gap.
The consultation material doesn’t cover multi land use so an area for the government to do more work on and something for us to cover in our submission.
How to make a submission
Consultation is open until September 12 and the water strategy policy group will be drafting a submission however growers are encouraged to do their own submission. You can send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the online form here.
The government has announced their final decisions on the Action for Healthy Waterways policy. The government has recognised that fruit production is a low intensity activity which means that the industry is exempt from rules such as a nitrogen cap and intensification. The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) and the National Environment Standard (NES) are still being drafted and the rules are expected to be operative from July 2020. Analysis of the rules can be found here.
The Ministry for the Environment released a National Environmental Statement and National Policy Statement for consultation in September. NZKGI reviewed this information to assess impacts for kiwifruit growers and drafted a submission along with consultation with the Water Strategy Working Groups, the NZKGI Forum, Growers, Maori Kiwifruit Growers Forum and HortNZ. You can read the submission here.
Council understands that the deposit fee required to lodge an application to vary consent conditions is a barrier to growers and have agreed to waive the deposit fee for growers who apply for a variation as a group. The group of applications would be processed as a bundle by the Council to reduce overall costs and actual and reasonable costs would be invoiced following completion of the process. Council will waive the costs if the change is simple and results in a significant reduction in allocation and/or the introduction of telemetry and other modern consent requirements.
If you are interested in this process, please register your interest prior to 30 August 2020 by emailing email@example.com with the following information:
The region wide Water Quantity Proposed Plan Change 9 (PC 9) has been withdrawn by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (Council). This means PC9 no longer has any legal effect.
PC9 was publicly notified in October 2016 as a first step towards improving the rules around fresh water. Changes within PC9 were developed to replace the existing rules within the operative Regional Natural Resources Plan (RNRP). Proposed changes were primarily concerned with how much surface and groundwater could be taken, proposing stricter limits on takes while also evolving the regulations that govern fresh water use. This was the Council’s approach to start implementing the governments National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS).
On 5 September 2019, the government released their essential freshwater policy for public consultation. The policy sought to halt declining freshwater quality and ecosystem health.
National policy and expectations have therefore evolved since PC9 was notified – particularly in respect of the role tangata whenua should have in fresh water management. The government have has said it will make further decisions on essential freshwater in April 2020 however, until then, Council and water users can only speculate as to the final requirements that will need to be captured in regional policy/plans.
Therefore, on 18 February 2020, Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee decided to withdraw PC9. Resource consents granted under PC9 are still valid and the consent conditions associated with these consents are also valid and must be adhered to.
For growers, this means that the rules under the operative RNRP remain current. Proposed rules under PC9 relating to the registering of permitted takes, changes to permitted take allowances and water metering requirements are therefore on hold however with expectations around water management only increasing under new government policy, growers should not be complacent with their approach to water management. Rules around its availability, efficient use and monitoring requirements will only increase. Ensuring you are measuring your water use through a water meter is your best approach to understanding and optimising your use, provides evidence for GAP requirements and aligns your business with future water management rules that will undeniably be in place in the very near future.
Resource consent is still required for all existing unauthorised water takes and applications will be assessed under the RNRP. Applications to take water from a fully allocated resource will now be processed as a Discretionary Activity as opposed to the ‘generally decline’ clause that PC9 had proposed.