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 is now closed.
Submissions for the proposed fresh water farm plan regulations are now closed.
By the end of the consultation period, the Ministry for the Environment received 172 submissions on freshwater farm plans.
Officials will read and analyse all submissions over the next couple of months.
A summary of submissions, for each consultation, will be published on the Ministry for the Environment website before the end of 2021.
Policy advice will also be provided to the Minister for the Environment on each of the consultations.
Once the Minister has decided on the policy advice, officials will draft the freshwater farm plan regulations, as well as any amendments to the stock exclusion and the intensive winter grazing regulations.
The freshwater farm plan regulations are expected to come into force from mid-2022, subject to Ministerial decisions.
To read NZ Avocado’s submission please download below:
A link to a previous freshwater farm plan consultation webinar held on 5 August 2021 can be viewed by clicking here.
Please see below the links to the documents related to this consultation for your reference:
Proposed changes to wetlands regulations
The Ministry for the Environment are consulting on the implementation of updated regulations on how wetland ecosystems should be managed.
The proposal looks to:
- Amend the definition of ‘natural wetland’ to make it clearer and ensure that only the areas intended are captured by the regulations.
- Better enable restoration activities to be undertaken and enable maintenance and biosecurity activities to be undertaken in, and around natural wetlands.
- Provide consenting pathways for the activities of quarrying, managed fill, land fill, clean fill, mining (minerals) and urban development operations.
NZ Avocado have reviewed and will support the Horticulture New Zealand Submission which will be made available to growers.
A focus of the feedback from the horticulture sector will be to refine the definition of a Wetland to only include ‘natural’ wetlands formed by natural processes with natural hydrology and exclude constructed or induced wetlands and riparian plantings. Industry are also seeking discretionary consenting pathways for vegetation clearance and earthworks associated with horticultural land uses up to 10m from a natural wetland.
Therefore, if your property includes or borders natural or artificially constructed wetlands and you would like to be more involved in providing feedback please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full information click here https://environment.govt.nz/publications/managing-our-wetlands-discussion-document/
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 and 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
Regional Natural Resource Plan for the BOP
Bay of Plenty Regional Council has the following operative regional plans:
- Regional Coastal Environment Plan
- Regional Natural Resources Plan (RNRP) – this replaced the former Regional Water and Land Plan, and will eventually incorporate the following stand alone plans. This includes the now operative Plan Change 10 – Lake Rotorua Nutrient Management:
- On-site Effluent Treatment Regional Plan
- Regional Air Plan. RNRP Proposed Plan Change 13 – Air Quality will soon replace this plan, but is subject to Court appeals.
- Regional River Gravel Management Plan
- Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan
- Tarawera River Catchment Regional Plan
Taking water from lakes, rivers and groundwater
Information about water allocation, resource consents, the allocation status of streams and aquifers can be found on BOPRC website .
Information about resource consents can also be found on the BOPRC website.
The operative Regional Natural Resource Plan (RNRP) is 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. There are several other requirements that must be met – please check the rules . Generally the permitted activity volume is not sufficient for commercial irrigation.
If you want to take water to irrigate, dam water or drill a bore you should call the Council and ask for a consent officer. They will give initial advice without obligation or cost.
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
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.