Most farmers making plans

Darryl Brown (left), who manages a 485ha farm at Eyreton chats with Andrew Arps, zone manager northern for Environment Canterbury, about his farm environment plan. Photo: Supplied
Darryl Brown (left), who manages a 485ha farm at Eyreton chats with Andrew Arps, zone manager northern for Environment Canterbury, about his farm environment plan. Photo: Supplied
Most Canterbury farmers have farm environment plans, and only a small minority - largely individual farmers - are dragging the chain.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) said of the 2900 farms in its area which required a farm environment plan under he council's planning rules, 2345, or 81%, had one in

place.

''Of the remaining 555 farms, some are on track to complete their plan and others will be targeted in future campaigns,'' the council's regional support manager, Dirk Brand, said.

Some people had been difficult to reach.

''We are targeting that group now, but it requires a farm-by-farm approach to get the landowner or manager on board and we expect it will take a few more months,'' Mr Brand said.

Canterbury has about 7400 farms. Of these, about 2900 required a consent to farm either because they had more than 50ha of irrigation or undertook winter grazing.

''Of the 2900 farms, around 1500 farms are managed within collectives or schemes and around 1400 are individual farms,'' he said.

Almost all dairy farms had environment plans with support from the dairy industry, as did nearly all farmers operating under irrigation schemes or collectives.

The majority of those who had not developed farm environment plans were individual farmers.

''We don't have a breakdown by farm type as our consents manage water use and nitrate leaching and don't capture that information,'' Mr Brand said.

The council was working to help farmers understand what was required.

''This has included an initial package of information to all affected farmers, setting up the canterbury water.farm website as well as ECan and industry workshops, drop-in-days, farm clinics and other initiatives.''

Land management advisers were available to visit individual farmers to discuss issues and solutions.

''We and the agricultural sector have done a huge amount of work over the past three to four years to implement the system, including putting in an auditing programme to ensure farmers are doing what they need to do to manage and mitigate risk.

''Our focus is on supporting those farmers who are still going through the process, which is only a few hundred, as well as getting under way the small number who have yet to start the process,'' Mr Brand said.

Darryl Brown, farm manager at Wai-Eyre Farm at Eyreton, said having a farm environment plan was always having a work in progress.

''You have to keep working on it.''

-By Chris Tobin

Farm Environment Plans timeline:

  • 2012: ECan started encouraging farmers to adopt farm environment plans; the land & water regional plan is introduced which sets nitrate levels.
  • 2016: Stricter rules for environment plans and rules over land use consent introduced in most at-risk catchments, starting with Selwyn Waihora catchment, then Hinds and South Coastal Canterbury.
  • 2018: Audits of  farm environment plans on freshwater management by November
  • 2018 gave 32% of collective/irrigation scheme farms an A rating, 58% a B, and 9% a C or D (not compliant). Of individual farms, 39% received an A, 56% a B and 4% a C or D.
  • 2019: February, requirement to have a farm environment plan is formalised and a requirement to obtain land-use consent to farm across Canterbury for farmers with 50ha of irrigation or winter grazing.
  • 2020: By this time all farms that are part of a collective or an irrigation scheme will be audited at least once. (Note: Farms receiving an A grade audit will be on a three-year audit cycle; others receive more frequent compliance follow-ups).

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