Intensive winter grazing regulations made more practical
The Government is proposing changes to intensive winter grazing regulations in order to address practical challenges raised by stakeholders.
These regulations are set out in the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020 (NESF), which were introduced as part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms.
A Discussion Document setting out the proposed changes can be found here: Intensive winter grazing regulations: Proposed changes - Ministry for the Environment Citizen Space - Citizen Space.
The regulations for intensive winter grazing were set to take effect from 1 May 2022. Under these regulations, farmers can only carry out intensive winter grazing without a resource consent if they comply with a series of default conditions, or they have a certified freshwater farm plan in place. Since the freshwater farm planning process is yet to be rolled out, meeting the default conditions could be the only pathway for some time.
The Government’s proposed changes try to improve these default conditions, as they have been criticised for being unworkable in practice. The proposed changes:
- Amend the 10 degrees slope threshold from a mean paddock slope to a maximum slope, which is easier to estimate.
- Remove the specific limits on pugging (labelled as impractical) and instead require farmers to take reasonably practicable steps to manage the effects of pugging on freshwater.
- Exclude sub-surface drains from the definition of drains, so that farmers do not have to maintain a stock buffer from sub-surface drains that cannot be practically mapped.
- Change the requirement for farmers to resow crops after winter by a set date to “as soon as practicable”, as unpredictable weather makes meeting a set date impractical, and clarify that farmers do not have to resow crops if they have established ground cover in other ways.
- Introduce a new requirement to keep critical source areas uncultivated and ungrazed.
However, not all criticisms have been adopted. Some stakeholders recommended increasing the 10 degrees slope threshold, and changing the condition limiting intensive winter grazing to 50 hectares or 10 percent of a farm’s area.
In terms of timing, the Government proposes to delay implementing the intensive winter grazing regulations by six months, so that they take effect on 1 November 2022.
Submissions are being accepted until 7 October 2021.
Consultation is also open on:
- Changes to the low slope map in the Resource Management (Stock Exclusion) Regulations 2020 – closing 26 September 2021.
- Proposed regulations for freshwater farm plans – closing 26 September 2021.
- Changes to natural wetland provisions in the NESF and National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management – closing 27 October 2021.