Regional councils welcome Good Farming Practice Action Plan

The regional council sector voiced its endorsement of the Good Farming Practice Action Plan for Water Quality, launched in Hamilton.

Doug Leeder, Chair of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council

“Our members strongly support this national voluntary initiative,” said Doug Leeder, Chair of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

“We applaud the way the rural sectors have come together in this way. Improving water quality is a key role for regional councils, which already work collaboratively with sector groups and communities to achieve this.”

Regional councils have a good record of using regulatory and non-regulatory tools to help farmers, growers and communities focus on improved water quality outcomes for their catchments, Mr Leeder said.

“Farm environment plans are a key tool for farmers and growers. They can identify unique risks and be tailored accordingly. The sectors have developed a series of templates their members can use.”

Some regional councils are already requiring farmers and growers to create farm environment plans in high-risk areas and encouraging all farmers to develop them as good business practice.

“Irrigation schemes are leading the way with their stakeholders being asked to develop farm environment plans, often using templates the schemes have created,” Mr Leeder said.

“Even where plans are not required by regulation, we are committed to supporting farmers and growers to use this tool to enhance their understanding of the land, their impact and ways to improve environmental outcomes.
“Regardless of whether a regional council requires a farm environment plan or not, responsible farmers and growers can use this tool to identify practical steps they can take.”

Principles of the farm environment plan

Different regions are at different stages and are sometimes facing unique challenges. The Good Farming Practice Action Plan for Water Quality provides valuable national impetus, supporting us to meet these challenges in a practical, consistent way, Mr Leeder said.

“The farm environment plan is a good starting point towards improved environmental performance by farmers and growers. Actual performance against the plan is what matters. Monitoring and assurance activity are where the rubber hits the road via auditing programmes. Some regions are well down this path already.”

Mr Leeder acknowledged Environment Canterbury for its initiative in facilitating development of the 2015 Industry-agreed Good Management Practices Relating to Water Quality for each rural sector.

“These were designed to be used throughout New Zealand. The Good Farming Practice Action Plan principles update these original Good Management Practices.

“While there is much focus on the larger regions, good work is happening everywhere – and it is important that we all play our part. In Canterbury alone, for example, there are more than 3000 farm environment plans already.

“We look forward to being part of rolling out the Action Plan nationally,” Doug Leeder concluded.

“In the meantime, the regional council sector will continue to work with rural groups, farmers, growers and communities to improve water quality outcomes in local catchments and throughout their regions.”

Read more about the Good Farming Practice Action Plan for Water Quality and related information. Read MFE's media release Environmental benefits to flow out of new action plan.