Legislation, Policy and Plans for Freshwater that growers need to be aware of
The future of water management under the Labour government’s Essential freshwater plan is seeing enormous change. It will affect growers at the ground level through both central government policy and regional planning regimes with new legislation and fresh water planning process.
Fresh water farm plans
Fresh water farm plans are now recognised as a way for growers to assess their environmental risks and demonstrate progress towards environmental objectives to meet both National and Regional requirements.
The term Farm Environment Plan (FEP) will in time become an overarching title as we move to a more integrated approach of how growers assess their environmental risks and demonstrate measurable progress towards National and Regional environmental objectives relating to fresh water quality, Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and biodiversity.
For more information on implementation and timelines for fresh water farm plans please click here.
The Ministry for the Environment is currently consulting on fresh water farm plan regulations. The consultation period has now been extended because of the COVID-19 alert level changes however there remains the opportunity to attend virtual workshops through September. The new closing date for submissions has also been extended to Sunday 26 September (changed from 12 September).
NZ Avocado has developed a submission for the proposed fresh water farm plan regulations and is requesting industry feedback. Please download the submission below and send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org by the 24th of September.
To view the discussion documents or make your own submission click here for the Freshwater farm plan consultation website.
A link to a previous freshwater farm plan consultation webinar held on 5 August 2021 can be viewed by clicking here.
Upcoming Farm Environment Plan consultation workshops/webinar
- Public Webinar: Freshwater Farm Plans, Stock Exclusion & Intensive Winter Grazing Pre-submission Online Information Session
Monday 20 September, 2021
7.00pm – 8.30pm
- North Island: Freshwater Farm Plans, Stock Exclusion & Intensive Winter Grazing Pre-submission Online Information Session
Wednesday 22 September, 2021
5.00pm – 7.00pm
Please register in advance for these online sessions.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Please see below the links to the documents related to this consultation for your reference:
Action for healthy waterways is the Government’s programme to change national direction for freshwater management. A discussion document was released in September 2019 and proposed significant changes to our national freshwater management framework. The Government consulted widely during 2019 receiving feedback and submissions on their proposed regulations.
The avocado industry’s submission focused on the timelines for consultation and change, opposing proposed consenting restrictions for new irrigated developments, support for extending existing GAP schemes to deliver Farm Environment Plans and recognition of horticulture’s low water quality impacts in relation to future nitrogen limits.
To read more about this programme and the policy mechanisms that will deliver this change, click here.
Essential Fresh Water Programme
The Essential Freshwater programme includes work on at-risk catchments, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management, amendments to the Resource Management Act, Allocation of freshwater resources and a Future management framework.
Relevant policy changes include:
- The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM) which will direct regional councils on freshwater management and discharges.
- The National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management (NESFM) which will be equivalent to the rules in a regional plan. These baseline rules will have effect when the rules in the relevant regional plan are less strict.
- Repeal and replacement of the Resource Management Act (RMA) to introduce fast track planning processes to make Farm Environment Plans enforceable.
- Te Mana o te Wai and reflecting Maori values in freshwater planning increase the involvement of tangata whenua, as kaitiaki, in the planning and management of freshwater.
Read more on the state of play about new environmental reforms here, and how it’s impacting the horticultural industry.
Resource Management Amendment Act 2020 – New Part 9A (Freshwater Farm Plans)
A new section (Part 9A) has been added the Resource Management Act that puts in place new regulations that will mandate Freshwater Farm Plans. The purpose of Part 9A is to better control the adverse effects of farming on freshwater and freshwater ecosystems within specified parts of New Zealand through the use of certified and audited freshwater farm plans.
There are thresholds below which a farm will be exempt from requiring a Freshwater Farm Plan – such as arable or pastoral land use less than 20 hectares and horticulture land use less than 5 ha.
What is this?
The purpose of a Regional Natural Resources Plan is to promote the sustainable and integrated management of land and water resources in this region covers soil (land), rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, groundwater, geothermal, natural hazards and air. A regional plan assists a regional council to carry out its functions in order to deliver its responsibilities to government for the sustainable management of its natural resources under the Resource Management Act.
Bay of Plenty
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has a number of changes to its RNRP in progress. Plan change 9 is the one most relevant to avocado growers.
Region-wide Water Quantity Plan Change – Plan Change 9 has been WITHDRAWN (18 Feb 2020)
Proposed Plan Change 9 (PC9) looked to improve how the allocation of water was managed in the region and ensure it is being used efficiently. It was designed as an interim measure and was notified in October 2018. It was subject to appeal in the Environment Court and has been withdrawn.
Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee listed the reasons for withdrawal as:
- Fundamental differences of opinion remain on key issues which are unlikely to be resolved without proceeding to court.
- Resolution of outstanding appeals is unlikely to occur until after the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is gazetted and implementation underway.
- Continuing to pursue the resolution of the appeals would therefore be an inefficient use of resources, given new national direction on fresh water is imminent.
- Future processes and associated plan change(s) following the gazettal of the NPSFM will enable better integration of water quality and water quantity and provide greater clarity in relation to Te Mana o Te Wai, which has been a key issue in the appeals.
- Withdrawing PC9 will not create a planning vacuum, consents will continue to be processed under the operative plan having regard to the current NPS-FM.
What growers need to know
- Resource consents granted under PC9 are still VALID
- Consent conditions associated with these consents are VALID and must be adhered to
- Rules and other provisions in the operative Regional Natural Resource Plan (RNRP) remain current – if you take more than 15m3/day of water from a stream or dam, or more than 35m3/day from a bore you need a resource consent
- All applications to take water will now be processed as a discretionary activities and may be declined, even without the ‘generally decline ‘ policy of PC9
- Applicants will need to bring robust evidence that the proposed allocation is sustainable and efficient use of water.
- If you are required to meter your water use, it is important to keep daily records and report as required to the Regional Council
- Good metering records help growers manage water use, remain compliant and supports future applications when it comes time for consent renewal.
If you have further questions contact Sue Simpson BOPRC Planning Coordinator on Sue.Simpson@boprc.govt.nz 0800884881 extn 8318
EXPECTATIONS ARE LIKELY TO INCREASE UNDER NEW GOVERNMENT POLICY.
GROWERS SHOULD NOT BE COMPLACENT IN THEIR APPROACH TO WATER MANAGEMENT.
RULES AROUND AVAILABILITY, EFFICIENT USE AND MONITORING REQUIREMENTS WILL ONLY INCREASE.
The Northland Regional Council has a Proposed Regional Plan for the whole region and once operative it will replace the three current Air Quality Plan, Coastal Plan and Water and Soil Plan.
It contains rules that set whether a resource consent is needed for activities and sets out the policy that applies to consent applications.
It also contains:
- Interim allocation limits and minimum flows/levels for surface and groundwater.
- Policy and rules for taking and use of fresh water
- Policy and rules to manage land disturbance (such as earthworks, vegetation clearance and preparation for cultivation)
- Policy and rules to manage the effects of discharges to land, water and air (such as wastewater and use of agrichemicals)
- Policy and rules for the protection of high value waterbodies (such as outstanding lakes, rivers and wetlands).
The Northland Regional Council chose to defer a number of water quality related provisions to a future plan change process given government policy direction changed just prior to notification of the Proposed Regional Plan in 2017.
Indicative water quantity allocation maps for surface and groundwater are available by clicking here. These maps show the current level of allocation in relation to limits in the Proposed Regional Plan.
Current status of the Proposed Regional Plan
The appeals version of the Proposed Regional Plan is available by clicking here.
Parts of the plan are under appeal to the Environment Court. The regional council has identified which parts of the plan have been appealed and which can be said to be operative. This is shown through shading within this version indicating which provisions are directly under appeal to the Environment Court. However, please note that additional provisions may be captured as a result of any consequential amendments arising from the outcome of an appeal.
Northland Regional Council has a range of initiatives underway to implement the Governments Essential Freshwater Package. For information in the work Northland Regional Council is doing in this area, including an upcoming Freshwater Plan Change, please click here.