The Proposed Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) introduces many
changes to the planning framework. This article focuses on the new
and controversial farming provisions only.
New farming rules are in force, which contain various conditions
that must be met for farming activities to meet permitted activity
status i.e. no resource consent required under the LWRP. If the
conditions cannot be met, resource consent may be required for
current farm operations to continue, for changes to existing (as at
August 2012) operations, for greenfield developments and for
conversions from dry land to irrigated pasture or to dairy.
The location of a property on a district wide nutrient
allocation zone map is fundamental to assess whether resource
consent may be required. The map is separated into five nutrient
allocation zones. At one end of the scale are pink sensitive lake
zones indicating areas where water quality is most at risk and at
the other green areas where water quality outcomes are being
Compliance with the new rules is separated into pre 2017 and
post 2017 obligations. ECan indicated that the staged introduction
is to permit the farming community a five year window to understand
the new nutrient regime and revise (if necessary) their farm
systems to provide for environment friendly nutrient outputs. The
expectation is that public awareness of land use related nutrient
loss will ensure that water quality in Canterbury's fresh water
bodies is preserved for the future.
Three Environment Commissioners are tasked by ECan to determine
the final content of the LWRP and the public hearing process is
well under way. Hearings on the controversial farming provisions
began in April and will continue until June 2013.
Ecan has now released its Section 42A report which contains
recommendations that differ from the nutrient regime that was
notified (and is currently in force) in the LWRP. This change of
tune is a difficult pill to swallow for those farm operators who
are still coming to grips with the introduction of a nutrient
regime at all. The consensus is that the content of the report is
once again, a shift of the goal posts.
The key differences are:
Overseer is no longer proposed as a regulatory tool;
The pre 2017/post 2017 staged approach has disappeared;
The definition of 'change in land use' moves from being
focused on nitrogen loss to being triggered where irrigation
commences on part of a property that was unirrigated as at
11 August 2012, any increase in the consented water available to
be used on the property, a 10% increase in stock units or a 20%
increase in cropping yield;
The introduction of a grading system to farm environmental
A new definition of 'high risk nutrient farming' which
includes feeding cattle on fodder crop on irrigated land, arable
farming, pigs or irrigated dairy – these activities are
subject to greater nutrient restrictions;
Provision for ECan to abstract various site specific property
information including identification of all watercourses on or
adjacent to the property, details of irrigation, description of
farm management practices and perhaps most importantly monthly
stocking rates including a breakdown of numbers, types and
But it's important to note that the report is a non-binding
recommendation from a consultant engaged by ECan and therefore does
not indicate the final version of the LWRP. Despite ECan's
recommendations, the Commissioners must weigh up all evidence and
deliver a plan that is in accordance the Resource Management Act,
including the purpose of sustainable management.
Until a decision is released by the Commissioners, expected
later this year, the final form which the nutrient regime will take
is unknown. The present is a tough time for operators who
anticipate change to current farm systems (including market driven
change) and the timing of any proposed development is crucial.
Unfortunately, there is no blanket answer for all. Please contact
us for site specific advice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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