New regional rules that will affect your block
When I first started my
work helping farmers to comply with regulations, I had the nagging suspicion that I was going to be creating environmental management plans that would do a great job of filling up someone’s bottom drawer and not much else.
But the response of farmers to the new rules on nutrient limits introduced by regional councils nationwide has exceeded my expectations.
I spend many hours each week riding a motorbike or quad over stunning landscapes. I talk to farmers about how they can improve their environment without spending a fortune.
Some of my greatest success stories have come from lifestyle blocks.
Recently, I completed a farm environmental plan for a farmer we’ll call Bob. Bob has 37ha (91 acres) but he works full-time off-farm. Every year he would plant as many paddocks as he could in winter crops, like fodder beet and green feed oats. All winter, before and after work and on the weekends, Bob would slog through mud, shifting electric fences through those crops for his cattle.
When I calculated his nutrient budget, he was three times over the limit for his property. That led Bob to look at the backbreaking work he was doing with new eyes. He compared that work to the marginal profit it was bringing in, and to the huge environmental impact it was creating.
Then he decided to completely change how he was farming. Bob returned his land to permanent pastures and stopped cropping. This brought his nutrient budget within the regional council limits. I’m hoping Bob can enjoy his free time and peace of mind knowing he doesn’t need a resource consent to keep farming.
The government introduced its National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management in 2014. This gave regional councils almost free rein to work with residents to develop rules and policies to maintain or improve the quality of freshwater in their region.
This has created different regimes around the country. In upcoming columns, I’m going to outline the different rules for different areas, and practical steps you can take to comply.
What is a nutrient budget?
A nutrient budget tracks inputs (ie, fertiliser, nitrogen from clover, effluent, irrigation) and measures outputs (ie, grass production, supplements, runoff). It can reduce or at least optimise fertiliser use, and reduce run-off.