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Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora December 2016

A round of open days have been held this month to inform people about Healthy Rivers/ Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1, and how they can have their say.

If you weren't able to make it along to one of the open days, we're sharing stories from landowners who did attend on our Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora facebook page. You can like our pages to receive updates and see stories from landowners in the Waikato and Waipā at this link here.

You can also see the information we presented at the open days on our new webpages here.

The clear message we received from landowners is they care about water quality in the Waipā and Waikato rivers and ensuring they have good management practices on farm, but they are concerned about the potential costs or difficulties for their businesses. Once the details were explained, many found that the proposed plan change isn’t as big a concern as they thought. Many of them have already done a lot of work and are well placed for Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora.

Submissions on the proposed plan are open until 5pm 8 March, 2017. The council has provided an extended period to allow people to understand what is proposed and make informed submissions.

You can find documents to make a submission here.

Input from the community will be vital in creating the plan's final shape. Anyone can submit on the plan and indicate whether they support, oppose or take a neutral stance on any parts of it. You can also make submission for changes you'd like to see made to the plan to improve it.

You can read a media release on the open days here.

Partial withdrawal of Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora notification

Part of the northeast Waikato is to be withdrawn from the currently notified Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1, to allow for consultation with Hauraki iwi to occur.

The land area of just over 120,000 hectares to be withdrawn fans out from just north of Morrinsville, northward along the eastern side of Lake Waikare to Tuakau, across to the Hunua Ranges, to the northern regional boundary. The land involved is about 11 per cent of the Waikato and Waipā river catchments in total. It has 6135 unique ratepayers (about six per cent of landowners affected by the plan change), including those in small centres like Te Kauwhata.

Waikato Regional Council intends that the area being withdrawn may be re-incorporated into the plan change process next year.

For the time this area is withdrawn the provisions of Plan Change 1 will not apply to landowners in this area. However, landowners can still submit on the provisions in Plan Change 1 in general. If they want to make specific submissions, on points that will relate to their
land, they will need to wait until after the consultation period,
when the withdrawn area of the plan change is re-notified. Once it is re-notified landowners will be informed and they can submit.

You can find out more about the withdrawal here.

You can also read the media release here.

Keeping your records

The proposed plan will require commercial vegetable growers and all landowners farming over 20 hectares to provide a Nitrogen Reference Point (NRP).

A consistent question we're being asked is, what if a farm doesn't have the appropriate previous records to calculate NRPs? Our approach to this may include using a variety of sources such as requesting milk production records directly from the milk company and then applying typical stocking rates and fertiliser rates against that milk production data to ascertain a NRP. In very rare cases where there are no records available, 75 per cent of average area values would be applied to that land.

We know most landowers already keep records. The message we want you to remember now is, you will need these figures in the near future. Under the proposed plan NRP would need to be provided by 31 March, 2019.

Please make sure you are doing all you can to have good records. You can read more about NRPs in our FAQs here.

Federated Farmers case study

A report testing the on-farm implications of the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 has provided useful data to inform the submission process.

The Heathy Rivers/Wai Ora: On-farm Project saw 13 independent farms and 11 Fonterra farms, led through the process of developing Farm Environment Plans (FEPs). FEPs are a key part of the proposed plan change and are designed to identify current contaminant losses and where those contaminants can leave properties. They also detail what action landowners will take to reduce those losses in a certain timeframe.

Two farmers involved in the case study have shared their experience, the questions they still have about the proposed plan change, and suggestions they have to improve it. See their comments here.

The Federated Farmers led project was jointly funded by Waikato Regional Council, Federated Farmers Waikato, Fonterra, DairyNZ and the Foundation for Arable Research.

The case study report results suggest the average cost of preparing an FEP could be around $4692, while average on-farm management to implement Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora ranged from $30,000 to $35,000 for dairy farms and between $170,000 to $221,000 for drystock farms, depending on how the plan is interpreted.

We have seen some questionable figures being quoted. While there are some anomalies in the plan to iron out as part of the submission process the case study also illustrated on-farm costs came down to interpretations in the proposed plan and mitigations chosen by landowners. 

Costs will vary significantly from landowner to landowner and that will depend on the amount of work they have already done towards implementing good management practice on their farms.

You can read the media releases on the on-farm project here and here.

You can also find some useful information in our Healthy Farms menus here.

Andrew Reymer, dairy farmer from Cambridge.

Graham Pinnell, drystock farmer from Cambridge