Tighter restrictions around farming unveiled
Proposed new rules could see Waikato farmers facing a multitude of restrictions around how they farm their land.
The most significant rules include excluding all stock from waterways from 2025 and making land use change a non-complying activity and therefore requiring a resource consent.
The rules were complied by the Collaborative Stakeholders Group (CSG), which is tasked with recommending new rules to the Waikato Regional Council to improve the region’s water quality.
To be presented to the council in June, they will eventually become a plan change.
They were outlined over the past few weeks to drystock farmers at a series of Beef+Lamb New Zealand workshops designed to obtain feedback that CSG representatives could take back to the group. The final workshop in Otorohanga was attended by about 30 farmers.
CSG drystock representative James Bailey stressed the rules had not been finalised and were open for change.
‘‘It’s basically a straw man [model]. There’s a lot of changes to be made in the meantime even though there’s not a lot of time left before the recommendation goes through.’’
Bailey said farmers had put forward some tough questions to the CSG at the meetings. Most had been around the exclusion of livestock from waterways.
‘‘Everyone realises we have to come to the party with stock exclusion, but there is just a few places that it’s just not practical and prohibitive activities around that rule are too limiting.’’
Prohibiting livestock from accessing lakes, wetlands and per- ennial waterways would be the toughest rule for drystock farmers because of the topographical nature of their farms, he said.
Any major intensification would also require a resource consent.
The CSG outlined the rules in a decision tree designed to help landowners determine whether their land use was a permitted activity.
Any land less than 4.1ha, excluding commercial vegetable cropping, was classified as a low- intensity activity and was therefore permitted. This was designed to remove small lifestyle block owners with a handful of livestock from the rules.
Landowners with more than 4.1ha but grazing livestock at less than eight stock units a hectare wintered were also classified as low-intensive farmers who were therefore undertaking a permitted activity.
Only two people at the meeting indicated they were farming at less than eight stock units a hectare. This made farmers question the effectiveness of this rule.
Regional councillor Alan Livingstone said it was designed for the first 10 years of what is an 80-year plan to improve Waikato’s water quality and create a ‘‘drafting gate’’ to separate the low-intensity farmers from the rest.
‘‘We have to focus on the highrisk guys. The resources just aren’t there to go across the board on everyone.’’
Farmers with a higher stocking rate and who had completed an industry scheme such as a Beef+Lamb environment plan or DairyNZ’s sustainable milk plans were classified as operating a permitted activity.
Those without a plan and classified as farming in a low-risk area would have to meet several conditions before their practices became a permitted activity.
Those without a plan and farming in a high-risk area would have to obtain a resource consent and farm under an environmental plan.
The Collaborative Stakeholders Group, tasked with formulating policies around improving Waikato’s water quality, has released these documents to farmers at a series of workshops across the region over the past few weeks. They outline rules that may come into being later this year.