Whitebait Connection’s Kim Jones and NZ Landcare Trust’s Jon Hampson examining a Redfin bully fish during Waipu River Basin Fishing Ground Day. Photo / Pierre Grant
Most landowners will be affected by new freshwater regulations being finalized by the Department of Environment.
Details are still being finalized on the timeline, which will determine whether the changes will be felt by farmers
like a tsunami or a surfable wave.
Either way, it is clear that the new regional plans for freshwater farms introduced by the Department of the Environment will represent a major change in the way farms are regulated.
The recent Freshwater Fish Field Day at McLean Road, Waipu, where local farmers and landowners gathered to see how native fish and invertebrates are faring in the hillside tributaries between the Brynderwyns and the Bream Bay, highlighted the growing attention to water quality.
One of the organizers, Lydia Draper, said the field day was meant to encourage landowners to learn more about the native fish in our waterways and get simple tips and techniques for habitat restoration, and local support and advice.
Landowner Peter Gibbs, who provided access to Waionehu Creek for the field day, said he was encouraged by the interest in the water quality issue.
“We are just lifestyle block owners who farm a few alpacas and chooks and tend to a bit of native bush.
“We are doing our best and it was quite encouraging to see that we are not alone. I was really encouraged by the amount of energy and all the different groups present and offering to share their knowledge.
“It was also very encouraging to see the amount of life in the creek. We are far from the ocean but there were lots of eels, white bait, kingfish and other wildlife,” said Gibbs.
Draper said the event was organized by Piroa-Brynderwyns Landcare Group, Fonterra, Patuharakeke, Whitebait Connection, New Zealand Landcare Trust and Waipu Waters.
The Healthy Waterways project has recently been added to the 10-year strategic plan for restoration in the high value area of Piroa Brynderwyns, largely funded by the Northland Regional Council.
“We hope local farmers will form catchment groups to move the project forward,” she said.
Northland Regional Council land program manager Ruben Wylie said the government had introduced a series of resource management changes aimed at improving freshwater quality and that new farm plan regulations in freshwater were part of the toolbox.
“For landowners and farmers, these new regulations are a big change, and once the regulations are confirmed, we will look for ways to support them as they become familiar with what is required,” Wylie said.
Most landowners would be affected, including anyone with 20 hectares or more for arable or pastoral use, or five hectares or more for horticultural use.
Wylie said the new part of the Resource Management Act would require landowners to develop freshwater farm plans at their own expense.
These should be certified and they should also be audited over time to ensure that the owner is on schedule and implementing their mitigation measures to improve water quality.
Wylie said that while the regulations required a certification process, the accreditation process to become a certifier has yet to be established by the Department of the Environment.
“We anticipate that the phasing in of freshwater farm plans will take into account the time required to establish a pool of certifiers needed to support the certification process.
“Once the regulations are published later this year, we can expect to better understand some of the unknowns, in particular how the requirements will be phased in and how the regulations will interact with all the other changes affecting water. gentle.
“The role of the NRC will be to appoint certifiers and auditors, administer the Freshwater Farm Plans, provide relevant information to farmers and act as a regulatory authority if the plans are not followed. .”
Wylie said NRC’s agricultural environmental plans set out a long-term plan identifying the options available to farmers to improve environmental outcomes, and he could see freshwater agricultural plans working in the same way. However, an important difference was that the new farm plans would include actions that farmers would be required to complete within the timeframes specified by the plans.
The first freshwater farm plans will likely be needed once the regulations come into effect later this year. This schedule had originally been set for the middle of this year, but had now been extended until later in the year.
Farmers and producers should continue to use all existing farm environmental plans to manage environmental risks until the freshwater farm plan system applies to their farm, Wylie said.