Robust assessment of farm environment plans promoted

Environment Canterbury announced its recognition of a programme designed to offer a robust and consistent assessment of Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) prepared under the Land and Water Regional Plan.

Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said FEP audit is a core aspect of farmers’ effective environmental management that will ultimately lead to improved water quality.  

“It’s all about action on the ground and continuous improvement,” he said. “It is an on-farm independent assessment of FEP implementation to check that farmers manage the risks identified in their FEP and that they apply good management practices to minimise the impact on water quality.”

Recognition of NZ Good Agricultural Practice 

NZ Good Agricultural Practice (NZGAP) is the second organisation to have its ISO programme recognised in this way. The first was Synlait Milk Ltd with its Lead With Pride™ programme in 2017.

“Our recognition of this programme allows any auditor operating under NZGAP to be considered a certified FEP auditor,” Mr. Bayfield said. “Farmers who are members of an approved ISO accredited audit programme can have their FEP audited under that programme, removing the need for additional audits and associated costs.”  

Environmental Management System empowers growers

NZGAP Manager Damien Farrelly said the organisation already included some environmental requirements in its core standard. “The Environmental Management System – EMS - has been developed to provide growers with a pathway towards achieving compliance with regional plans such as Plan Change 5 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan,” he said.  “The EMS checklist and templates have already been approved as compliant with PC5 requirements.

“The EMS empowers growers to demonstrate progress towards operating at Good Management Practice (GMP), while an audited EMS will also support resource consent applications.”

Since the Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) became operative in 2012, Environment Canterbury and industry have been working to define Good Management Practices on farm for each sector and to help put in place farm environment plans. 

Under the LWRP, a farm environment plan must be produced in any circumstances where an application for consent to the farm is required.  “There are several situations where a consent is needed, depending on how at risk water quality is in the zone where the property is located,” Bill Bayfield said.

“To date, 85% of the total number of FEPs required by our rules are in place and have been audited at least once - or will receive their first audit within the next year. The audit gives assurance to the farmer and reassurance to the community that the right things are being done on farm to implement good management practices, which in turn will improve water quality. NZGAP is to be applauded for its commitment in this area.”

Find out more about NZGAP and its audit programme.

Farm Environment Plans Background

A Farm Environment Plan (FEP) is a key environmental risk-management tool that helps farmers recognise on-farm environmental risks, and set out a programme to manage those risks.

FEP's are unique to a farm and reflect the local climate and soils, the type of farming operation, and the goals and aspirations of the land user. The level of complexity of an FEP will largely depend on how much farm system change is underway or being considered.

FEPs are required under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan for farms with a higher risk of leaching nutrients - for animal effluent discharge, water take and use, land use for farming and nutrient discharge from an irrigation scheme.

If farmers are part of an irrigation scheme, they should check with the scheme. They should also refer to the Hurunui Waiau River Regional Plan, the Selwyn Waihora Plan (Plan Change 1 of the LWRP), the Hinds Plains Plan (Plan Change 2, LWRP) and the South Coastal Canterbury Plan (Plan Change 3, LWRP).

Minimum FEP content is specified in Schedule 7 of the LWRP.

Find more information on Industry agreed Good Management Practices and land use consent to farm.

Watch this video to hear more about NZGAP.