Overseer review - how we have responded

Last updated: 9 May 2022

Overseer is a tool to model nutrient losses from land. It's used in a variety of ways by regulators, auditors and farmers. The Government’s review indicated that Overseer in its current form should not be used as the only way to measure nutrient losses from farms.

With a view to the need to notify a new plan under the Essential Freshwater package, we needed to find a way to continue to administer our current planning framework until at least that time.

Auditors on farm

Our interim solution

We have been working with mana whenua and industry groups on an interim solution to the Overseer review. After a pause, we have started consent processing and Farm Environment Plan auditing again.

We have now resumed auditing in central and far southern parts of the region. We have not resumed auditing north of the Hurunui River or consenting in the far south, where discussions with the local Rūnanga have not yet concluded. We will contact affected landowners at the appropriate time.

If you are unsure how your situation is impacted, contact us on 0800 324 636.

How the interim solution applies to FEP audits

We have changed the way auditors determine compliance with a farm's nitrogen loss limit.

The new approach puts more emphasis on change to the farming system and the likely impact of those changes on nitrogen losses to water.

Overseer budgets can still be a valuable form of evidence to support your audit process. If you are unsure whether you need an Overseer budget, please contact your FEP auditor.

Auditors already have new guidance that they are working under.

  • Unless you use an Overseer nutrient budget for other farm management reasons, don’t book an Overseer budget before you have discussed the need for this with your auditor.
  • Discuss your situation with your auditor. Explain any on-farm changes that have been made since you received your consent or since your last audit.
  • Your auditor will advise you what additional information you may need to provide for your audit if there have been significant changes to your farming operation since consenting or your last audit.
  • Talk to your industry body, farming consultant or FEP auditor if you need support. Find a list of Environment Canterbury certified auditors.

Further information on FEP audits

If the new FEP auditing process applies to you, this information is relevant:

  • Allow sufficient time to arrange for your audit to be carried out.
  • Find Environment Canterbury certified auditors.
  • Make sure your FEP is up to date to reflect your consent conditions.
  • Talk to your industry body, farming consultant or FEP auditor if you need support.
  • Let us know if your FEP will be audited under an irrigation scheme or ISO programme, or if the audit has already been completed.

Contact us on 0800 324 636 or email fep.audit@ecan.govt.nz.

How the interim solution applies to consents

New consents and existing consents will now need to use a mixture of inputs (such as irrigation area, winter grazing area, farm system category) and outputs (nitrogen loss risk, for example).

If you are making a new or replacement consent application, we will need to assess any current or baseline nutrient budget you have in order to determine your farm system category and any increased nitrogen loss risk.

Only consider changes in land use if you have evidence to show that what you’re proposing won’t lead to higher nitrogen loss risk. We would advise you against making changes to your farming system without strong evidence that you will be able to meet your nitrogen loss limit.

We’re obliged to consider each application individually under our statutory direction, but with the need to notify a new land and water plan in future, certainty may best be served by granting relatively short-term consents.

Frequently asked questions for farmers

Should I use Overseer now? What for?

You must have an Overseer budget if you are applying for a consent. This is a requirement of the Land and Water Regional Plan.

You can also use a budget if you’re being audited. For both consents and audit, your Overseer budget will be just one line of evidence and will need to be supported with other evidence.

If you have changed your farm practices since the last time you were audited, an Overseer budget may be required as one line of evidence.

Talk to your auditor or consent planner to find out whether this applies to you.

In all cases, you can use an existing nutrient budget as a line of evidence. See also the next question.

Should I do a nutrient budget now? Why should I invest in one if it’s only one type of evidence?

You will need an Overseer budget to apply for a consent. An existing budget may be sufficient - talk to your consent planner to find out what applies to your situation.

You can prepare a new nutrient budget for your FEP audit if you wish, but an existing one may be sufficient as a line of evidence.

When you book an FEP audit, discuss your situation with your auditor. They will be able to decide whether in your situation an Overseer nutrient budget, or other sources of evidence, will be needed for the audit.

Note that nutrient budgets provide you, your rural professional and auditor with useful information about farming systems and how different management practices contribute to the farm’s overall nitrogen losses.

Overseer also provides information to develop effective nitrogen loss mitigations which will help you meet your nitrogen loss targets and any required reductions.

 

Can I use an equivalent model?

At present we are implementing the interim solution to determine a farm’s nitrogen loss limit.

This is based on a farm narrative (farm system category and descriptors – see table below) rather than using OverseerFM to calculate the nitrogen loss rate (50 kg N/ha/yr, for example). 

If you choose to use an equivalent model, we will assess the model against the policies, objectives and community aspirations we deliver on, and make a decision accordingly.

What are the farm system categories?
Systems Description
Dairy 1 Tonnes DM/ha (Calculate feed eaten per ha, as per defined process)
Dairy support A mixture of crops and pasture grown for rearing of dairy replacements and/or wintering of milking cows
Sheep and beef A mixture of pasture and crops grown for breeding sheep, beef and/or deer, and could include a mixture of breeding and finishing
Stock finishing A mixture of pasture and crops grown for stock finishing
Deer A mixture of pasture and crops grown for deer breeding and/or finishing
Outdoor pigs Management of land for production of pigs
Other livestock Horses, camelids and other livestock categories
Cut and carry Production of a range of forage crops for use off paddock
Arable 1 A mixture of crops (small seed, cereals and/or vegetables) grown for harvest
Arable 2 A mixture of crops (small seed, cereals, pasture and/or vegetables) grown for harvest and stock grazing
Horticulture Fruit, nuts and/or vegetables grown for harvest
Viticulture Production of grapes grown for wine production
Other A mixture of farming systems not clearly covered by the above
How do I know what farming category(ies) my farm falls into?

The system categories are broad and will usually be clear (see above table). There is a subdivision of dairy farms based on a calculation using easily identified inputs.

For more information on this methodology, discuss with your consultant, FEP auditor or dairy company.

How can the narrative system work, especially on a mixed farm?

The system categories are broad. We will therefore use a single system category if possible (for example, arable with stock compared with arable without stock), but where there are clear distinctions between systems on a single farm, these can be defined separately if required.

What should I do differently to prepare for my first audit?

Book in with your FEP auditor early to ensure all necessary information can be prepared for your FEP audit.

Discuss your situation with your auditor and explain any farm system changes that have been made since you received your consent or since your last FEP audit.

Your FEP auditor will advise you what additional information you may need to provide for your FEP audit if there have been significant changes to your farming system since consenting or your last audit.

Each situation is different. Therefore it is important to talk to your auditor so they understand the farm and any system changes.

What should I do differently to prepare for my subsequent audit?

Unless you use an Overseer nutrient budget for other farm management reasons, don’t create an Overseer budget before you have discussed your situation with your FEP auditor.

Access any existing nutrient budget. If you are changing your farm practices, an Overseer budget may be required as a line of evidence. Talk to your auditor about this.

What should I do differently if I want to lodge a consent application?

Access any existing nutrient budget. Note that new consents will focus on a mixture of inputs (such as irrigation area, winter grazing area, farm system category) and outputs (nitrogen loss risk, for example).

Will processing my consent be more expensive?

Generally not, unless you are seeking to intensify your land use and additional evidence is required to show you will not be increasing your farm's nitrogen loss risk.

How long will it take to process my consent application?

We are likely to receive more consent applications than in the past. However, we are currently experiencing delays in processing resource consents.

Am I likely to get a short-term consent only? Why?

We’re obliged to consider each application individually under our statutory direction, but with the need to notify a new plan, certainty may best be served by granting relatively short-term consents.

I want to change my farm practices – what should I do?

Talk to us, particularly if you believe that what you are proposing may lead or amount to change in land use or increase your farm’s nitrogen loss risk.

Why has consent processing and Farm Environment Plan auditing started again in some areas but not others?

In developing the interim solution, we undertook to engage with mana whenua. Conversations have concluded with two of the four Tangata Whenua Advisory Service agencies but are ongoing with the other two.

We have restarted consent processing and FEP auditing in most areas of Canterbury. We have now also resumed auditing in far southern parts of the region. We have not restarted auditing north of the Hurunui River or consenting in the far south. We will contact affected landowners at the appropriate time.

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