Water quality has consistently been identified as the key issue for the people of the Waikato region for the past two decades. Healthy River Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 is the bold response to addressing the complex issue of water quality. This plan change will affect all dairy farmers and communities in the Waikato and Waipa catchments.

River

 

Healthy Rivers Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 (“plan change”) is to restore and protect water quality in the Waikato and Waipa Rivers by managing discharges of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and microbial pathogens to land, where it may enter surface water or ground water and then enter the rivers, or directly into a water body.  

The proposed plan change gives effect to Government legislation on the management of fresh water which was passed in 2014 and The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato and Waipa rivers which was adopted by Government as part of Treaty Settlement legislation.  The regional council has a legal requirement to give effect to both of these.

The plan change aims to include all landowners over 2ha within the Waikato and Waipa River catchments.   New rules will complement existing rules in the Waikato Regional Plan.  Existing rules will continue to apply, e.g. farm dairy effluent rules, earthwork rules and point-source discharge rules.

The Process

The proposed plan change was notified on 22 October 2016.  Public submissions closed on 8 March 2017.  A summary of submissions describing all submitters’ requests and the reasons for them is publicly notified and available on Council website.  Council calls for further submissions asking submitters to indicate whether or not they support submissions.  Later this year, submitters will have the opportunity to formally present their views to the Hearings committee.  In 2018, Hearings committee will release its decision, people can then appeal decisions made on the plan change to the Environment Court.

The Plan Requirements

The requirements set out below only applies to the land subject to the plan change.  The land is divided into priority areas 1, 2 and 3.  The landowner will need to find out which Priority catchment its land falls under. 

Property registration

Properties with an area greater than 20ha must be registered with the Waikato Regional Council.  The registration must occur between 1 September 2018 and 31 March 2019.

Fencing/stock exclusion

  • Water bodies must be fenced, unless these animals are prevented from entering the bed of the water body by a stock proof natural barrier formed by topography or vegetation.  
  • New fences that are installed after 22 October 2016 must be located to ensure cattle, horses, deer and pigs cannot be within one metre of the bed of the water body.
  • For the land use permitted under Rule 3.11.5.1 (Small and low intensity farming activities); and Rule 3.11.5.2 (Other farming activities), these fencing provisions must be complied with by 1 July 2023 for properties within Priority 1 sub-catchments; by 1 July 2026 for properties within Priority 2 and Priority 3 sub-catchments.

Stocking rate

Where the property area is greater than 4.1ha but less than or equal to 20ha, the landowner will need to keep a record of stocking rates to demonstrate:

  1. Where the land is used for grazing livestock, the stocking rate is no greater than the stocking rate of the land at 22 October 2016; or
  2. Where the land is not used for grazing livestock, the land use is the same as the land use at 22 October 2016.

Landowners will need to provide to the Council independent verification from a Certified Farm Environment Planner whether the use of the land is compliant with either 1) or 2) above. 

Upon request from the Council, a description of the current land use activities may need to be provided to the Council. 

Where the property area is greater than 20ha, the landowner will need to demonstrate:

  • A Nitrogen Reference Point is produced for the property; and
  • The diffuse discharge of nitrogen does not exceed either:
    • The Nitrogen Reference Point; or
    • 15kg nitrogen/hectare/year, whichever is the lesser.
  • A Nitrogen Reference Point must be calculated by a Certified Farm Nutrient Advisor who will determine the amount of nitrogen being leached from the property during the relevant reference period.  The Nitrogen Reference Point must be calculated using the current version of the OVERSEER Model.
  • It is important to keep accurate records relevant to stocks numbers; dairy production; invoices for fertiliser applied; invoices for feed supplements sold & purchased; water use for irrigation; crops grown on the land; and horticulture crop dairies and NZGAP, so they can be provided to the Waikato Regional Council upon request.
  • No part of the property over 15 degree slope can be cultivated or grazed. 
  • No cultivation is permitted within 5 metres of the bed of the water body.
  • New fences installed after 22 October 2016 must be located to ensure cattle, horses, deer and pigs cannot be within 3 metres of the bed of the water body.

For all properties greater than 4.1ha, from 31 March 2019, information related to annual stock numbers; annual fertiliser use; and annual brought in animal feed must be provided to the Waikato Regional Council by 1 September each year.

Use of land

Any of the following changes in the use of land from that which was occurring at 22 October 2016 within a property is a non-complying activity (requiring resource consent) until 1 July 2026:

  • Woody vegetation to farming activities; or
  • Any livestock grazing other than dairy farming to dairy farming; or
  • Arable cropping to dairy farming; or
  • Any land use to commercial vegetable production

These provisions will apply to properties within the relevant catchments.  The landowner will need to find out which Priority catchment its land falls under.


Further information