Q & A on Essential Freshwater
Below you'll answers to questions we've received around our approach to the Government's Essential Freshwater regulations.
If you can't find what you're looking for and you'd like to submit a question, please email email@example.com and put EFW Question in the subject line. We'll do our best to get back to you and add it onto this page.
If you carried out winter grazing in 2020 and you're not planning on making any changes to the scale, scope or intensity of your wintering, then you may have what's called 'Existing use rights'.
If this applies to your situation, this means that there is a 6-month period from the point when the wintering regulations come into force - 1 May 2021 - to apply for consent. You may be able to carry out your winter grazing next year, but you may need to apply for a consent under the new rules by 31 October 2021.
Please note: You cannot determine whether Existing Use Rights apply for yourself - give our consents team a call to discuss.
Check out this handy guide which lists all the criteria you need to meet. Intensive Winter Grazing is a permitted activity if you can meet all these criteria. If you've got a question, please give our consents team a call on 0800 76 88 45.
The National Environmental Standards require any person operating a dairy farm to report to Council each year on their nitrogen fertiliser use. This reporting includes information on the types of fertiliser used, the rate of application and the location and date of application. This reporting requirement starts on 30 June 2021 with the first reports due in by 31 July 2022.
I use more than 190 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year. What sort of consent do I need to apply for and what will be needed?
From July 2021 if you use 190 kg/ha/year of nitrogen fertiliser then a non-complying consent will be required. Please note that this cap does not apply to arable or horticultural land use.
Chat to our consents team before making your application to ensure you have all the right information and forms.
To apply you will need to show that:
- through a synthetic nitrogen reduction plan you will reduce your fertiliser use each year so by July 2023 it is no longer exceeding the cap; or
- by ensuring the rate at which nitrogen may enter water does not exceed the baseline rate (the rate of nitrogen entering water if the nitrogen cap is met).
The National Environmental Standards are in addition to the permitted activity criteria in the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and any discharge of fertiliser still needs to meet the conditions in Rule 14.
The regulations within the Essential Freshwater package were gazetted on 3 September 2020, however some have specific dates for when they take effect. The regulations sit alongside the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan rules. Check out this timeline to get a sense of what takes effect when, and give our team a call on 0800 76 88 45 to chat about your specific situation.
Under the new guidelines, pugging must be managed, so when selecting paddocks be aware of how you can minimise this. Pugging has been clarified to be defined as 'the penetration of soil by hooves of grazing livestock of more than 5cm'.
The depth condition has also been clarified to exclude areas of animal congregation like gateways and around water troughs where pugging is highly likely. The new provision reads 'pugging at any one point must not be deeper than 20cm, other than in an area that is within 10m of an entrance gate or a fixed water trough'.
Te Mana o te Wai is an important concept for how water is managed and utilised in New Zealand and refers to the vital importance of water. Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that encompasses several different aspects of the integrated and holistic health and well-being of a water body. It was introduced to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater (NPS-FM) in 2014, and strengthened in the 2017 and 2020 updates to the national policy statement.
Te Mana o te Wai recognises the fundamental importance of water in that protecting the health of freshwater protects the health and well-being of the wider environment. It is an approach that protects the Mauri (life-force) of the water.
When Te Mana o te Wai is given effect, the water body will sustain the full range of environmental, social, cultural and economic values held by iwi and the community. The concept is expressed in te reo Maori, but applies to freshwater management for and on behalf of the whole community.
The meaning of Te Mana o te Wai is different for each community, being based on their unique relationship with freshwater in their area or rohe. Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that regional councils must give effect to in their regional plans in relation to water, in consultation with their communities.
Resource consent applications to regional councils must demonstrate how the application will ensure that freshwater is managed in a way that prioritises (in this order):
(a) first, the health and well-being of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems
(b) second, the health needs of people (such as drinking water)
(c) third, the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, now and in the future.
People making decisions on consents must now have regard to the relevant provisions of the NPS-FM and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020. The decision-maker must weigh up several factors. Considerable weight must be given to the principles of Te Mana o te Wai, and the requirement to put the health and well-being of freshwater first, then human health, and finally the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being.
To appropriately incorporate this new direction into the decisions we make on resource consents, we need people applying for consent, or with consents in process, to assess the relevant provisions of these documents, and particularly how their proposed activities give effect to Te Mana o te Wai and the hierarchy of obligations.
We know there are new regulations introduced by central government to manage intensive winter grazing and they are creating concern.
Intensive winter grazing is a permitted activity, providing you can meet the criteria in both the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater.
For now, one of the best things to do is create a plan that will allow you to prepare for next season. The following are some key steps to guide you in creating your winter grazing plan.
- Start by printing an aerial photograph and use a pen to identify the risks of each winter grazing paddock you’ve chosen e.g critical source areas, waterways, slopes, soil types. Know your average winter rainfall statistics.
- On the same map, show the position of plough-lines that ensure adequate buffers (5m or more from waterways or wetlands). It’s good practice to plough across slopes and around critical source areas to leave them in pasture. Try minimum tillage techniques when cultivating to maintain soil structure and prevent nutrient loss.
- Get soil tests done to determine soil fertility so that fertiliser application can match your soil needs.
- Mark on your map where baleage will be placed in the winter grazing paddock to minimise soil compaction by machinery and minimise camping/nutrient enrichment areas by animals. Place bales in the paddock before it gets too wet, again to minimise vehicle compaction.
- Another strategy you might want to consider is to plant a sequence (or catch) crop like oats after the paddock has been grazed and as soon as conditions allow. Once oats become established they begin to remove nutrient from the soil, hold the soil together and produce feed for stock.
- Check out this handy Guide to intensive winter grazing without a consent.
Section 360 is a part of the Resource Management Act. It has been updated in the latest round of regulatory changes to include provisions on stock exclusion and water takes.
We’re currently working through the analysis of these two areas and will have more information on what these changes mean soon.