From our Chair: Getting ready for Essential Freshwater

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

You’ll no doubt be aware of the government’s Essential Freshwater package that was released in August 2020. It’s a new nationwide approach to improve the quality of our freshwater within a generation.

At its heart is the concept of Te Mana o te Wai, which prioritises the health of the waterways.

Understanding the regulations

The Essential Freshwater package is significant. It will influence farming operations across the country as its regulations are rolled out in the coming months and years.

Environment Canterbury’s role is to interpret just what the package means for Canterbury as a region and establish and communicate what it means for the day-to-day operations behind the farm gate.

Supporting the rural community

With that in mind, I’d like to stress that we’re here to help everyone get their head around the regulations and prepare accordingly.

Some farmers, of course, already have a good understanding of the regulations and how they will be established and rolled out. Others are perhaps still unsure of the fundamentals.

We are creating some comprehensive resources to support farmers and industry representatives that break down the key aspects of the regulations.

It's important to understand that there are new rules that apply now (such as around land use intensification, nitrogen cap, stock exclusion, stock holding, and feedlots) and new rules that are yet to come into effect, with winter grazing and water measurement being two such examples.

I would recommend looking into the key dates for the new regulations so you can make a start on the things that are required now and have time to prepare for changes coming down the line.

Some key changes

Compared to other regions, Canterbury is well positioned to apply the new regulations. Our regional plans cover many of the same things as those of the Essential Freshwater package – there are similarities between them.

The fact remains, however, that there has to be change to how things are done on the farm, especially for those managing high-input and intensively grazed livestock systems.

One such change relates to the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) – a key aspect of the Essential Freshwater package. The NES-F will mean more consents for more farmers, as some activities that were previously permitted will now require consent.

Additionally, the central government is proposing to make it mandatory for all farms above 20 hectares to have a freshwater module in their farm plan, which will need to be in line with catchment-specific freshwater objectives.

To help with your planning, you should read the rules in the NES-F to find out whether any of your current activities will require resource consent and what it means for your farm plan.

Helpful resources

Once again, we’re here to help, and we’re putting a particular focus on supporting farmers around the use of synthetic nitrogen, managing wetlands, freshwater farm plans and winter grazing.

We know there is a lot to think about in the new Essential Freshwater package. If you’re unsure where to start, check out our Farmers hub website or give us a call on 0800 324 636.