Waikato Regional Council is urging farmers to be vigilant after seven separate court cases found farmers to have unlawfully discharged farm effluent into the environment.
The council is contributing $30,000 and staff resources to the project which is exploring the realities of implementing the plan change across all sectors including dairy, sheep and beef, arable, drystock, equestrian and lifestyle blocks.
“The research will help provide critical information for the submissions process of the proposed plan change itself and also for when we enter the implementation of the new rules once they become operative,” says council chief executive Vaughan Payne.
“Our support for this Federated Farmers initiative underpins the strongly collaborative approach we are taking with the rural sector on Healthy Rivers Wai Ora.
“There are a lot of questions circulating about what the plan change will look like in practice and this project will help us further understand where the issues really are.”
The project focusses on the development of farm environment plans which are a key aspect of the plan change.
These farm environment plans are due to identify contaminant losses from individual farms to water bodies, how contaminants escape from farms and what actions will need to be undertaken to mitigate and reduce these losses. If adopted, the plan change will see landowners farming over 20ha and commercial vegetable growers needing to provide farm environment plans. In first priority areas these will be required from July 2020, with different deadlines for other priority areas after that.
The Federated Farmers-led project is designed to assist in ironing out any fish hooks in the farm environment plan process so industry sectors can make informed submissions and suggestions for how the plan change can be improved.
The project is jointly funded by Federated Farmers Waikato, the council, Fonterra, DairyNZ and the Foundation for Arable Research. There are 12 independent farms taking part and another 12 Fonterra farms participating to determine what the plan change could look like run under an industry scheme.
The council will publicly notify the proposed plan changed later this month and has allowed more than four months for the public to make submissions to ensure they have time to understand what’s planned and make informed comments.