Overseer has been widely accepted by regional councils as the
tool to use for understanding the flow of nutrients on and off a
farm. In particular, Environment Canterbury has recognised Overseer
as the applicable model to be used when considering nutrient issues
under the Regional Plan, or resource consent applications.
This approach from councils has come under fire this year, with
concerns raised about whether a model that was developed to
indicate nutrient loss (in particular nitrogen) was appropriate to
be used as a hard-and-fast rule governing our farming industry.
Whether you agree with it or not, Overseer seems here to stay.
One of the key issues that has arisen for users of Overseer is that
it is frequently updated – with Version 6.2.1 released in
December 2015. The concern for users of Overseer is that each
version can result in different 'numbers' being generated.
For example, it is anticipated that Version 6.2.1 may result in the
figures showing an increased nitrogen-loss estimate.
This increase in nitrogen-loss under different versions can
cause difficulty for those who are operating under a resource
consent that limits nutrient loss in specific figures, without
specifying which Overseer version is to be used.
It will also cause problems for those discharging nutrients
currently in compliance with the Land and Water Regional Plan. The
plan requires that the most up-to-date version of Overseer is to be
used. The Land and Water Regional Plan sets specific figures of
nitrogen loss that is allowed for a permitted activity – so
any change to the way these numbers are calculated could impact on
permitted activity users. If the Overseer outputs change to an
extent that a user no longer comes within the permitted activity
rules, a resource consent is likely to be required, despite there
being no actual changes to on-farm management.
The difficulty is, of course, that the actual nitrogen being
lost has not changed. However, with changes to the modelling,
different results can be generated from the same data input,
depending on the version of the model used.
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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