Farm environmental Plans - how we're tracking

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Date: 28 August 2023
Reporting frequency: Annually
Portfolio: Water and land


Farm Environmental Plan (FEP) audits show that Good Management Practice (GMP) are being achieved. Our measure is the percentage of audits graded A or B.


During the 2021/22 financial year, there were 23 certified FEP auditors operating in Canterbury who completed 691 audits. Ninety-seven percent of these farms achieved an A or a B grade.

An A grade indicates that the farm is compliant and achieving GMP, while a B grade also indicates that the farm is compliant, but it will be on track to achieve GMP by the next audit, which will be due to take place two years later.

FEP audit cumulative results

Over the past seven years, 5,431 FEP audits have been completed, including 691 in the 2021/22 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.

* Irrigation Schemes include both collectives and enterprises.

What is being done?

Each financial year, Environment Canterbury collects the grade for each individual audit and collects the irrigation scheme’s FEP programme grades.

Farms that receive:

  • An A grade for their FEP audit will be on a three-year audit cycle with farms in schemes or collectives on a maximum four-year audit cycle.
  • Those that received a B, C, or D grade will undertake more compliance follow-up inspections (see below for more, under “What do the FEP Audit grades mean?”).

What we found

Eighty per cent of Farm Environment Plan (FEP) audits achieved an A audit grade in the 2021-22 year (the farmer/land manager is meeting GMP standards).

Another 17% of FEP audits achieved a B grade (the farmer/land manager is on track to meet the industry agreed good management practices).

In total, 97% of FEPs audited achieved an A or B grade and complied with the relevant Farming Land Use Consent or irrigation scheme requirements.

What do the FEP audit grades mean?

An A grade indicates that the farm is compliant and achieving GMP, while a B grade also indicates that the farm is compliant, but it will be on track to achieve GMP by the next audit, which will be due to take place two years later.

Achieving on-farm good management practices is key for meeting nitrogen loss limits and mitigating other environmental risks. It also maintains and improves freshwater quality across the Canterbury region.

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 Dependent on approved ISO Accredited Programme timeframe 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

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 on 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 the water supply to a poorly 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