Earlier this year, Environment Canterbury released the Council's decision on the proposed Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP). The LWRP represents a new framework for managing Canterbury's water resources and for delivering the outcomes set out in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

A key part of the LWRP and one which will have a major impact on rural land users, is the requirement for farmers to gather data on nutrient losses – in particular nitrogen – and to develop nutrient budgets using the "Overseer®" programme.

Nutrient budgets are required under the LWRP because the plan sets limits on the amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen that can be leached into the environment – especially in zones where current water quality objectives are not being met. In the "red" zones (those areas where current water quality objectives are not being met) this will affect the ability of farmers to change land uses, for example converting from dryland to irrigated farming or from sheep/beef to dairy farming. In the future, resource consents will be required to leach more than specified amounts of nitrogen per year and farm environment plans will become an essential farm management tool.

Environment Canterbury is currently encouraging all farmers to collect their nitrogen loss data for the period 2009 – 2013 and to use "Overseer®" to prepare nutrient budgets. These will be used to generate nitrogen baselines against which future discharges will be measured. You may have noticed ads appearing in the farming pages of the Christchurch Press reminding farmers that they need to do this

If you have any questions about the new LWRP rules, the implications of these new rules for your farming business, or you are thinking of buying or selling rural land or even leasing rural land, please contact our rural specialists Richard Parkes on 03 339 5610 or Caroline Mason on 03 339 5606 for advice. We can help you to identify the potential impact of these new rules and can advise you on their implications for your farming business.

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.