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  Council » Policies and Plans » Plans under development » PROPOSED WAIKATO REGIONAL PLAN CHANGE 1 » Frequently asked questions (FAQ) and infosheets » Summary of the proposed rules

Summary of the proposed rules

FAQ summary of rules

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The Waikato community has consistently identified water quality as the top issue for the Waikato region for the past two decades.

Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 is the bold response to addressing the complex problem of water quality facing our Waikato and Waipā Rivers.

The proposed plan change gives effect to Government legislation on the management of fresh water (passed in 2014) and Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato (The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato and Waipa rivers) which was adopted by Government as part of Treaty Settlement legislation. The regional council has a legal requirement to give effect to both of these.

The proposed plan has been developed using a collaborative process involving community and sector representation which has ensured that those who are most affected by the changes have been at the table developing the policy and providing input and feedback from their communities and sectors over the last 2.5 years.

The proposed plan aims to encompass or include all landowners over 2ha within the Waikato River and Waipa River catchments. New rules will complement existing rules in the Waikato Regional Plan. Existing rules in the Waikato Regional Plan will continue to apply, e.g. farm dairy effluent rules, earthwork rules and point-source discharge rules.

Additional requirements for forestry (5.1.5Q)

In addition to provisions already in the regional plan that manage forestry, there will be new requirements to ensure harvesting operations are managed. Council must be notified 20 working days prior to beginning harvest operations. Notification must include a harvest plan that clearly identifies the area to be harvested and how risks to water bodies will be managed.

A harvest plan should include:

  • Title, date and harvest boundary.
  • Location of existing and proposed roads, tracks, landings, fire breaks and stream crossings.
  • Location of all water bodies, streams and wetlands and measures to control sediment discharges into water.
  • Operations restrictions around water bodies.
  • Location of any protected riparian vegetation and significant natural areas and how they will be protected.
  • Proposed harvest methodology.
  • Proposed slash disposal areas and management.

Point sources policy (discharge consents etc.)

The water quality objectives in the proposed plan change also include point source discharges (e.g. urban storm water, municipal wastewater). These point source objectives and policies are to be applied when any existing or proposed discharges are consented. Resource consent applications will also need to look at whether the current discharge treatment reflects the “best practicable option” and how adverse effects are avoided, remedied or mitigated depending on the concerns of the particular sub-catchment.

Schedule A - Registration

Between 1 May 2020 and 30 November 2020, all rural properties >2ha must provide Waikato Regional Council with information that includes:

  • landowner/land user details and other basic information
  • details of land use activities undertaken at date of plan change notification
  • (if grazing animals) stocking rate, location of water bodies and any adjacent fences, location of livestock crossing points and type of structures
  • map which highlights the above.

Schedule B - Nitrogen Reference Point

Properties over 20ha must provide Waikato Regional Council with a NRP (highest annual leaching loss in either the 2014/15 or 2015/16 financial year for the property) and associated data. NRP must be provided between 1 May 2020 and 30 November 2020.

All commercial vegetable production properties or enterprises must provide Waikato Regional Council with a NRP (average N leaching losses from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2016) and associated data at the date of lodgement of resource consent. All NRPs are calculated using OVERSEER® or other approved model.

Schedule C - Stock exclusion

Properties grazing cattle, horses, deer or pigs must have fences or stock proof natural barriers to prevent them from entering water bodies. Water bodies for stock exclusion in this plan change are any:

  • rivers that continually contain surface water
  • drains that continually contain surface water
  • wetlands, including constructed wetlands
  • lakes.

The setback distance and the need for stock exclusion does vary depending on the applicable rule, slope etc. There is no requirement to move existing fences or stock proof natural barriers to the applicable setback.

Activity status

Depending on the size of your property and how you use your land, your farm will fall into the different categories outlined below.

Permitted No resource consent is required. Must comply with conditions in plan.
Controlled

Requires resource consent. Must be granted. Must comply with standards and terms in plan. Can only consider control reserved and may only impose consent conditions relevant to those matters.

Restricted discretionary

Requires resources consent. May be granted. Can only consider specific matters over which discretion restricted and may only impose consent conditions relevant to those matters.
Discretionary

Requires resources consent. May be granted. May impose consent conditions. Full discretion.

Non-complying

Requires resources consent. May be granted, subject to gateway test which is that the adverse effects of the activity on the environment will be minor or the application is for an activity that will not be contrary to the objectives and policies of a relevant plan or proposed plan. May impose consent conditions. Full discretion.

Prohibited

Consent cannot be applied for.

Rule 1 - Small and low intensity farming activities

Permitted activity (see activity table)

This rule applies to farming activities on properties that are not used for commercial vegetable production and are not part of a multi-property enterprise and are registered (Schedule A) and have stock excluded (Schedule C) and are either:

  • ≤ 4.1ha OR
  • >4.1ha with <6 stock units/ha, no arable cropping.

Rule 2 - Other farming activities (low risk properties)

Permitted activity (see activity table)

This rule is designed to identify properties with low risk factors which do not need a Farm Environment Plan. It applies to farming activities on properties that are not commercial vegetable production and are registered (Schedule A) and have stock excluded (Schedule C) and can meet either set of the following conditions:

Properties >4.1ha and ≤20ha with >6 stock units/ha OR arable cropping AND not part of multi-property enterprise AND

  1. Stocking rate has not increased since notification (if grazing) OR
  2. Nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and microbial pathogen losses have same or lower discharges since notification (if not grazing) AND
  3. Water bodies are fenced so that any new fences keep cattle, horses, deer and pigs at least 3m away from water body.

Properties >20ha with >6 stock units/ha OR arable cropping:

  1. N loss doesn’t exceed Nitrogen Reference Point (see Schedule B) or 15kg N/ha/year (whichever lesser) AND
  2. No land >15° slope cultivated or grazed AND
  3. No soil cultivation occurs within 5m of a water body AND
  4. No winter forage crops grazed in situ AND
  5. Water bodies are fenced and stock are excluded. Any new fence are located to keep cattle, horses, deer and pigs at least 3m away from water body.

Note: Properties between 4.1 and 20ha do not require a Nitrogen Reference Point modelled through OVERSEER, but must provide verification that they comply with points 1 and 2. 

FEPs are a key aspect of the proposed plan change as they allow landowners to tailor their farm plan to suit the farm system, landscape/localised features and potential future changes. Farm plans help to identify areas where contaminants are lost, and identify appropriate mitigations.

Rule 3 & 4 are the two key rules for the majority of pastoral, horticultural and arable farming enterprises within the Waikato and Waipā catchments

Rule 3 - Farming activities with a Farm Environment Plan under a certified industry scheme

Permitted activity (see activity table)

Properties, excluding commercial vegetable production, that do not come under Rules 1 or 2, and are registered to a Certified Industry Scheme. Properties must also be registered (Schedule A) and stock excluded (Schedule C) and must provide a Farm Environment Plan to Waikato Regional Council and adhere to it by:

  • 1 March 2022 for priority 1 sub-catchments, and properties with a Nitrogen Reference Point greater than 75th percentile nitrogen leaching value.
  • 1 March 2025 for priority 2 sub-catchments.
  • 1 July 2026 for priority 3 sub-catchments.

Note: Certified Industry Schemes will have to be approved by Waikato Regional Council. Schedule 2 sets out the requirements for an industry scheme.

Rule 4 - Farming activities with a Farm Environment Plan not under a certified industry scheme

Controlled activity (see activity table)

This applies to properties which do not come under Rules 1 and 2, farming where land use is not registered to Certified Industry Scheme is a controlled activity provided;

  • It has an FEP provided by certified person as part of a consent application
  • FEPs are in place by ‘priority dates’ (see table)
  • Stock (Schedule C) are excluded from water bodies
  • All stock are excluded within 3 years of priority date or at the latest by 2026 (whichever is soonest)
  • FEP shows how NRP is complied with as measured via 5 year rolling average in OVERSEER
  • FEP for 75th percentile prepared before 2022.

Note: Policy 2(d) says that reductions must be proportionate to the amount of current discharge (those discharging more are expected to make greater reductions) and proportionate to the scale of water quality improvement required in the sub-catchment.

Rule 5 - Existing commercial vegetable production

Controlled activity (see activity table)

Commercial vegetable production enterprises operating under an approved Farm Environment Plan (in place by March 2022) as part of an industry scheme are a controlled activity as long as the area of the enterprise does not exceed the maximum area occupied by that enterprise from 1 July 2006 to 1 July 2016 and the enterprise does not exceed its Nitrogen Reference Point (see Schedule B).

Note: Policies require a reduction in 10% of nitrogen discharges across the sector by 2026.

Rule 6 - Use of land for farming activities

Restricted discretionary activity (see activity table)

Properties used for farming activities but not covered by preceding rules.

Rule 7 - Land use change

Non-complying activity (see activity table)

The following land use changes (greater than 4.1ha) are noncomplying activities from date of notification and therefore require a resource consent.

land use change rule diagram

*Dairy farming means farming of dairy cows on a milking platform for milk production.

Note: Provision is made in Objectives and Policies for some flexibility for development of tangata whenua ancestral lands. This is to recognise that flexibility has been restricted in the past due to legal and/or historical impediments.

Any land that does change use will also be subject to other rules, for example the requirement to have a Farm Environment Plan under Rule 3 or 4. A Nitrogen Reference Point for any new land use will be established as part of the consent application.

 Proposed key dates for the rules

22 October 2016 Land use change rule in effect.
1 May 2020 to 30 November 2020

All properties over 2ha register with the Waikato Regional Council.

All properties over 20ha provide their nitrogen reference points.
1 March 2022 Priority 1 sub-catchments, the 75th percentile nitrogen leaching value dischargers and commercial vegetable production complete their Farm Environment Plans.
1 March 2025

Priority 2 sub-catchments complete Farm Environment Plans.

Priority 1 sub-catchments complete stock exclusion.
1 July 2026

Priority 3 sub-catchments complete Farm Environment Plans.

Priority 2 and 3 sub-catchments complete stock exclusion Leaching exceeding the 75th percentile has been reduced to meet the 75th percentile.

Land use change rule expires.

This information has been provided based on Waikato Regional Council’s interpretation of the proposed plan. The proposed plan is subject to change through the hearings process.

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