Thursday, 18 April 2024 14:25

Sustainability Update

Written by  Dr Edwin Massey

Following the New Zealand government’s introduction of Freshwater Farm Planning regulations last August, local authorities are now activating them on a region-by-region basis out to the end of 2025.

These regulations require all farm operators for vineyards over 5 hectares to develop a Freshwater Farm Plan (FWFP) to mitigate the impacts of their activity on freshwater ecosystems. From the date the regulations are activated in your region, farm operators will have 18 months to complete a FWFP.

Supercharging SWNZ: Changes required to meet Freshwater Farm Planning regulations

Following the completion of an 18-month project funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) received a final Technical Assessment and Gap Analysis of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) programme from the Agribusiness Group in early March 2024. This report examined the potential alignment between SWNZ and the FWFP requirements. This report identifies that the key gaps in the SWNZ programme that will be required in a FWFP include:

  • The provision of vineyard property-level GIS maps which identify the location of land units, land uses, soils, slopes, infrastructure, etc.
  • The identification of inherent risks relating to freshwater from the property (i.e. soil type and slope) and risks posed by vineyard management activities (i.e. redevelopment or cultivation). Identifying these risks is an important part of developing a FWFP as it provides the basis for action to mitigate the risks posed by viticulture. Identification of these types of risks is not currently mandated within the SWNZ programme.
  • Catchment context - links with catchment context, challenges and values (CCCV). Currently SWNZ sets a national standard for sustainability certification. This may need to change to incorporate specific requirements in different catchments.

Overall, the report concludes that the SWNZ programme could be modified to assist members to develop FWFPs, but that significant technological innovation is required for these adjustments to meet regulatory requirements.

Project Raumatatiki: Freshwater Farm Planning for Viticulture

To address the gaps found in the Agribusiness Report, NZW has received financial support from the Essential Freshwater Fund, which is administered by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE). This funding has enabled NZW to launch ‘Project Raumatatiki: Freshwater Farm Planning for Viticulture’. Project Raumatatiki is an opportunity to enhance our industry’s commitment to sustainability by integrating FWFP requirements into the SWNZ programme. Consistent with our industry’s sustainability goal for water, the project will help us demonstrate that we are a world leader in efficient water use and the protection of water quality.

The funding from MfE will help us to develop an industry specific tool that members can use to create a FWFP for their property which is individualised, specific to their catchment, and identifies risks and vulnerabilities from vineyard activities and mitigations to address them. This tool will be essential for addressing the gaps identified in the Supercharging SWNZ final report.

In addition, the funding will help us deliver an education programme that provides advice to members on how to meet FWFP requirements and how the tool that is being developed can assist them. Funding from MfE will finish in June 2025, which is before FWFP regulations will be activated in all regions. This means that Project Raumatatiki will act as a pilot to determine how best to assist members with meeting these regulations through the SWNZ programme. Any major changes to the SWNZ programme will be delayed until the regulations have been activated right across the country.

Fabian Yukich, Deputy Chair of New Zealand Winegrowers, is leading Project Raumatatiki, alongside representatives from three wine regions, central and local government. Collaboration will be crucial to the success of the project by considering feedback and perspectives from these stakeholders, as well as from a dedicated project technical advisory group and input from other primary sector organisations who are also impacted by these new FWFP regulations. If you are interested in finding
out more about the project and those involved, go to

The project name Raumatatiki derives from the kupu ‘raumatatiki’ which refers to unfailing and endless freshwater springs. Here, it acknowledges the importance of our water that has and will continue to sustain Aotearoa and the wine industry’.

Dr Edwin Massey is NZW General Manager Sustainability

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