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Farming confidence has risen, a survey shows. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Photo: ODT files.
Otago farmers may still require resource consent for the controversial practice of intensive winter grazing this year despite a delay in new national rules governing the practice.

Farmers keeping stock in outdoor feeding areas planted with fodder crops have come under fire from conservationists when the practice leads to mud-covered, pugged paddocks, harming ecosystems.

National freshwater regulations were supposed to address the issue by implementing a new consenting regime for the practice.

But farmers objected, saying the new rules were unworkable, and last month Environment Minister David Parker agreed.

Mr Parker delayed implementation of the new intensive grazing rules until May 2022.

He said during the reprieve farmers, led by the work of a Southland advisory group, would rapidly develop, test, and deploy new freshwater farm plans instead.

But now, the Otago Regional Council has reminded farmers its own plan, with its own intensive grazing rules, is in effect.

The regional council issued a statement last week that noted consents could be required in Otago this season under rules about intensive grazing introduced in Plan Change 8 last year.

While Plan Change 8 is one of the regional council plans now before the environment court, the rules regarding water quality took effect upon notification.

Intensive grazing was a permitted activity in Otago only so long as several conditions were met, the council said.

The total area of the property used for intensive grazing must be the lesser of 100ha or 10% of the total area of the farm.

There must be no intensive grazing in gullies, swales, or depressions that accumulated runoff and delivered it to nearby water bodies.

Stock had to be progressively grazed from the top of a slope to the bottom of a slope.

And a vegetated, stock-excluded strip of at least 10m must be maintained between the intensively grazed area and any water body.

Council regulatory general manager Richard Saunders said staff had developed a simple consent application form that would require basic information such as the area of paddock being grazed, which of the permitted activity criteria were not being met, and what mitigations were in place.

The consents would cost $200 based on the staff time required, and would be issued for the period up to November 1, he said.

Consents would not be required if a farmer could meet the permitted activity criteria.

If they could not, the farmer might still be able to continue intensive grazing without a consent under continuance rights, provided they continued grazing on the same scale and with the same effects, the council said.

Plan Change 8 is one of several regional council plan changes in front of the environment court at present.

Federated Farmers was one of nearly 100 submissions on the plan change.

Not only does the farmers group criticise the council for an alleged lack of consultation, it warns against increasing the cost of business for farmers.

"The potential on-farm costs and restrictions resulting from proposals with this plan change will impact agricultural production across Otago," its submission states.


David Parker must really dislike farmers.

Maybe he just likes the environment, he is Environment Minister after all.

I would be surprised if he could spell it! He certainly doesn't know much about it.

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