Reporting back

Farm Environment Plans – how we're tracking

Date: 04 October 2021
Reporting Frequency: Annually
Category: Water and Land


Farm Environment Plan (FEP) audits show good management practices are being achieved. Our measure is the percentage of audits graded A or B.


Ninety-three per cent of FEPs audited in 2019–20 achieved an A or B audit grade.

An A grade audit means industry-agreed Good Management Practice was achieved for that property. A B grade audit indicates the property is compliant and on track to achieve GMP before it is next audited.

Protecting the environment is the top priority

There are several aspects to our work to protect and improve Canterbury's rural environment:

FEPs in place

  • As of 1 September, 2021, there were 2624 Farm Environment Plans in place.
  • In the 2019/20 year, 1097 Farm Environment Plan audits were carried out. 
  • Fifty-two per cent of Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) achieved an A audit grade in the 2019/20 year (the farmer/land manager is meeting GMP standards).
  • Another 41% of FEP audits achieved a B grade (the farmer/land manager is on track to meet the industry agreed good management practices).
  • In total, 93% of FEPs audited achieved an A or B grade and complied with the relevant Farming Land Use Consent or irrigation scheme requirements.

FEPS by grade

FEP audit cumulative results

Over the past five years, 3807 FEP audits have been completed, including the 1097 in the 2019/20 year.

Farmers who achieve an A or B grade benefit by having more time before their next audit is due. See a detailed explanation of what FEP audit grades mean.

FEPs audited by year with running total

* Irrigation Schemes includes collectives/enterprises

How do good management practices help improve water quality?

Achieving on-farm good management practices is key to meeting nitrogen loss limits and mitigating other environmental risks, as well as maintaining and improving freshwater quality across Canterbury. Implementation of a Farm Environment Plan that is subject to an independent audit gives confidence that farmers have implemented or are on track to implement good management practices by their next audit.

FEP audit result by scheme or individual farm

There were 21 certified FEP auditors operating in Canterbury who completed 1097audits during the 2019/20 year.

The programme is on-track to ensure that by this year all farms that are part of an irrigation scheme have at least one audit and by 2024 all individual farms have been audited at least once. Individual farms receiving an A grade for their FEP audit will be on an audit cycle of up to three years with farms in schemes or collectives on a maximum four year audit cycle. Farms that receive a B, C or D grade will receive more frequent compliance follow-ups.

What do the FEP audit grades mean?

Frequency of audit


Compliant and achieving GMP



Compliant and on track to achieve GMP by the next audit


Non-compliant and not achieving GMP


Serious non-compliance and not achieving GMP

Individual farms 3 years 2 years 1 year 6 months
Farms connected to ECan accredited audit programmes (Industry programmes)  Dependent on approved ISO Accredited Programme timeframe 2 years 1 year 6 months
Farms connected to an Irrigation scheme, Principal Water Supplier or Hurunui Waiau Collective 4 years 2 years 1 year 6 months
Change in management or significant change in farm systems 1 year 1 year Within the year 6 months


FEP audits: Frequently asked questions

Why are farms achieving A grades still subject to future audits?

As we work to improve water quality and our environment, what is considered Good Management Practice is changing.

In the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, some regions are asked to make greater reductions in nutrient loss for future dates. So what is considered achieving GMP on one farm now, might fall short of GMP in three years’ time. We also strive to ensure farms continue to operate at GMP through future audits.

So why is a B grade a pass if it means GMP hasn’t been achieved?
Achieving GMP is a journey for many, and the B grade acknowledges that some landowners, while they haven’t yet achieved GMP, are nevertheless making positive progress and are on track to make GMP within the next few years.
What is the compliance follow-up for C and D grade farms?

We conduct farm-by-farm, one-on-one follow-ups. Experience has shown that each farm has a unique set of circumstances and challenges on their journey to implement good management practices.

Either the appropriate irrigation scheme or an approved International Standardization Organization (ISO) connects with each farm graded C or D to provide the required support and agree an improvement plan.

Farms that do not meet the compliance requirements are subject to the irrigation environmental management scheme rules or ISO programme rules for ceasing membership. In the case of an irrigation scheme this may mean stopping water supply to a poor performing farm.

The C and D grade individual farms are provided support by a Land Management Advisor before there is any compliance follow-up.

All compliance follow-up is determined by a panel to ensure that farmer circumstances have been fully considered before determining a compliance approach.

How does Environment Canterbury ensure consistency between auditors?

What underpins the FEP Audit Programme is a robust quality assurance framework.

Included in this framework are processes for auditor approval, auditor monitoring, mandatory training days, calibration exercises, annual assessments and spot checks.

The programme is accountable to the Farm Environment Plan Auditing Reference Group with formal six-monthly reporting and face-to-face meetings.

The group includes primary sector bodies, NGOs, our treaty partner Ngāi Tahu and two nominated FEP auditors.

Find out more

Find out more

Find out how we tracking on implementing our Farm Environment Plans.

Find out more about Farm Environment Plan.

Find out more about industry-agreed Good Management Practice.

Visit the Farmers' Hub for more information for farmers.

Find out how ratepayer funding supports this work with our Rates Tool.

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