Friday Flash, September 16, 2022
The twice-deferred and still-not-ready-yet winter grazing regulations have left thousands of farmers stuck in limbo, and quite frankly pissed off.
Complying with a winter grazing farm plan module through a Freshwater Farm Plan was to be the alternative to needing a resource consent for a winter grazing crop. But there needed to be some specificity in the regulations about what a farm plan would require. A start date for the regulations was delayed for a year in May 2021. Then delayed again to November 2022. But we learned in late July they still wouldn’t be ready. As a balanced solution and given that flyovers and checks show a high level of good practice this season, sector leaders including Feds President Andrew Hoggard proposed to Environment Minister David Parker that farmers just use the existing winter grazing module alongside existing industry farm plans until the regulations can be developed.
We still have no clarity on the way forward. It’s deeply troubling the government doesn’t seem to know how many farmers all this will impact. I was keen to get a handle on this so worked with Feds staff to undertake a survey of our members. Thanks for the hundreds of members that filled in the survey. It is still available online here if you want to fill it in and haven’t done so thus far (even if you don’t do winter grazing, this helps us understand the portion who do). Feds knows from our survey that it’s not just the bottom of the South Island. Around 90 per cent of respondents in Southland, Canterbury and Otago said they planted winter forage crops but on top of this planting was also quite high in northern regions. Over half of North Island respondents south of the Bombay’s also planted forage crops with high numbers focused around the lower and central North island hill country. Over half of all respondents said the winter grazing occurred on sloped land meaning a resource consent would be required.
The uncertainty is more than aggravating. All the risk is being put on farmers who are told on one hand councils won’t really enforce the law, but on the other hand could still be prosecuted if they find themselves on the wrong side of the council for any reason. Unfortunately, delay remains the only tenable option. The policy was always a package deal with three options: comply with the new regulations; manage it through a Freshwater Farm Plan; or get a resource consent. Only a delay will allow the Freshwater Farm Plan regulations to be completed and for the farm plan option to be made available to farmers.