Monday 12 March 2018

Regulatory Update

Below is a quick update on where things have gotten too from a regulatory perspective. 


2017 saw Environment Canterbury (ECan) introduce Good Management Practices (GMP) into its Land and Water Plan framework.  This is known as Plan Change 5.  Plan Change 5 also introduced the Waitaki specific nutrient management rules.  The decisions on the plan were appealed by a number of parties, particularly in relation to how the irrigation and fertiliser GMP’s were being treated in the Farm Portal (the online tool developed to determine exactly what GMP is at a farm level).  Appeals are still yet to be resolved, and therefore, it is likely to be mid-2018 before this plan is made operative.

Plan Change 2, which is specific to the Hinds Plains region, is also still under appeal, however, Plan Change 3, which is specific to the South Canterbury Coastal Streams area, had all its appeals resolved in November 2017, and is now fully operative.

ECan has also been doing a big push in the areas where a consent to farm is required, to encourage those who need one to go through the process.  There has been a good response to this (contrary to the opinion of Dr. Mike Joy) as the process is new to many, and requires professional help and a change in mindset for many. 


Otago’s nutrient management rules are now two years away from kicking in (the date is 1 April 2020).  Otago Regional Council has been encouraging farmers to get their Overseer done.  They have also taken the initiative in the more sensitive catchments such as the Kakanui, and have been providing resources and funding to assist with this.

Southland’s Land and Water Plan is nearing the completion of hearings.  Council gave its reply report and recommendations (a summary of all the information and submissions presented to the hearings panel, and answers to all questions from the panel during the hearing) in November 2017.  Watch this space.


Horizons One Plan struck a major hurdle in early 2017, with the Environment Court deciding that the way in which the Council was implementing its plan was not what the plan actually said.  This has left the council with a plan that effectively doesn’t practically work as it was written, and wondering what to do now.  Implementing the plan as written creates a massive cost to farmers and other consent holders, and doesn’t necessarily achieve the desired water quality outcomes.  Given this, in August 2017, the council voted to investigate the possibility of a partial plan change.  However, this will not be a quick or easy process as it is both a legal and public process.

Hawkes Bay

Irrigators in the Tukituki catchment are left high and dry (literally) after the Ruataniwha Dam project is put on the shelf indefinitely.  The Tukutuki River minimum flow is still going up, and without the dam to augment and flush the river, the increase in minimum flow will mean the possibility of severe restrictions for irrigators in this catchment.  Effectively, the raise in minimum flow was coupled with the dam, but the impacts of de-coupling are now about to be realised.


Gisborne’s Freshwater Plan decision was released in August 2017, and was subsequently appealed.  The appeals are still to be worked through and there is no timeframe at this stage on when appeals are likely to be resolved.  Gisborne’s Freshwater Plan was actually pretty kind from a nutrient management perspective when compared to Canterbury for example.  There is no requirement for on farm limits using Overseer, and they have adopted a Farm Environment Plan approach to managing water quality.  However, it does have some issues with water quantity.  As horticulture, and kiwifruit in particular, look set to increase, those looking in the Gisborne area for plots to develop are soon realising that there is basically no water available for allocation unless you are prepared to take high flow water and store it.  Therefore, this is limiting the potential for the Gisborne region.


As well as all that is going on the regions, we have a new government who looks set to wind up funding irrigation scheme development, has already taken a stand on climate change, and will undoubtedly want to stamp its feet on the water issues.  2018 will be an interesting year…

By Keri Johnston, Irricon Resource Solutions
Phone 0272 202 425 or email