How freshwater farm plans fit in with the wider regulatory system
Freshwater farm plans will be a tool to demonstrate how regulatory requirements are being met on farm, such as those from the:
- National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (Freshwater NES)
- nitrogen-cap policy
- stock exclusion regulations
- regional plans, consent requirements etc.
In some cases (ie, for intensive winter grazing and stock exclusion above 5 degrees slope) freshwater farm plans will offer an alternative pathway to the regulations.
Freshwater farm plans also link into the Integrated Farm Planning framework and will become a section within an integrated farm plan.
How freshwater farm plans work with integrated farm plans
Integrated farm planning provides a single framework for a farmer or grower to bring together all their farm planning requirements into one place. It is not a regulatory tool.
Taking an integrated approach to farm planning is intended to streamline compliance, reduce duplication, and provide a structured approach for farmers and growers to lift performance.
Integrated farm planning will cover aspects such as people management; biosecurity; animal welfare; greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater.
Freshwater farm plans will become a section within an integrated farm plan.
How freshwater farm plans fit with the changes to the RMA
The freshwater farm plan system will still be fit for purpose alongside any changes made to the RMA.
How freshwater farm plans fit with regional plans and consents
While farmers and growers are developing freshwater farm plans, regional councils will be developing regional freshwater plans that implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2020. Freshwater farm plans will tie into regional council plans – and will be able to be used to demonstrate regulatory compliance to regional councils. Over time, we expect that freshwater farm plans will be increasingly relied on, reducing the need for consents and hard-and-fast rules.
This does not mean that freshwater farm plans will replace the need for resource consents or rules. These other regulatory tools are still important, and we expect councils will continue to use them where necessary.
Regional freshwater plans need to be notified by December 2024, and we propose to begin introducing freshwater farm plans by mid-2022. The first tranche of freshwater farm plans certified would use the best local information and catchment context available at the time, recognising plans will need to be updated once regional plans are finished in 2024.
How freshwater farm plans work with farm environment plans
Farm environment plans are an established tool to help farmers and growers plan their systems and practices to reduce their impact on the environment. Existing farm environment plans can be used as the basis for freshwater farm plans under the proposed regulations and may become the basis for the farm’s risk assessment.
Farmers and growers should continue to use any existing farm environment plans to manage environmental risks until the freshwater farm plan system applies to their farm.
How freshwater farm plans work with existing industry assurance programmes
Freshwater farm plans will build on the work many farmers and growers are already doing to manage the risks and impacts of farming activities on freshwater quality and ecosystems.
The primary sector has played a leadership role in the development of industry assurance programmes (IAPs) such as Synlait's Lead With Pride, NZGAP, or the red meat sector’s New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP). Many of these have an environmental component.
These programmes would need to be updated or adapted if they are to deliver a freshwater farm plan that meets the requirements of Part 9A of the RMA.
We propose a system where industry programmes and possibly council programmes can be assessed and recognised as being appropriate to deliver a freshwater farm plan that meets the requirements of the RMA.
Once the regulations are developed, more work will be required to determine the details of a programmes’ integration.