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Work underway to streamline freshwater plans

Work underway to streamline freshwater plans
Canterbury farmers aren’t expected to have to develop their freshwater farm plans until 2025, and Environment Canterbury is working to ensure it is a streamlined process. PHOTO SUPPLIED 

Freshwater farm plans (FWFP) will be rolled out across the country, starting with Southland and Waikato, from this August, but won't be introduced in Canterbury until around 2025.

That means no action is needed yet from Canterbury farmers, but Environment Canterbury is already working to make the process as streamlined as possible when the time comes.

The FWFP, introduced in the Government’s Essential Freshwater package, is designed to stop further declines in freshwater quality and make water quality improvements within five years, aiming to reverse past damage to waterways.

It’s a national approach with a local focus, as FWFP will aim to identify practical on-farm actions depending on the farm’s location, catchment and local environment, and will provide a more flexible alternative to consents and one-size-fits-all approaches.

Canterbury farms that don’t meet permitted activity rules are already required to have a Farm Environment Plan (FEP), which will be superseded by FFWPs.

Come 2025, all farms with 20 hectares or more in arable, pastoral or combined use, or five hectares or more in horticultural use, will require an FWFP that will need to be certified and audited.

ECan regulatory services general manager Judith Earl-Goulet said there are around 2500 farms with FEPs and initial estimates indicate that an additional 1000-2000 farms will need a FWFP in Canterbury.

“Although there are some key differences between the two farm plans, FEPs provide a strong foundation on which the FWFP implementation can build.

“Further detail will be provided about the planned transition approach as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, our advice to anyone with an FEP is that they should continue to implement their existing plan, including working towards any upcoming audits.”

ECan is developing a programme of work in preparation for the rollout in Canterbury in 2025, she said.

It will focus on four key areas.

“Including developing catchment context, challenges and values; preparing a training and appointment process for FWFP certifiers and auditors; establishing systems for managing data associated with FWFPs; and developing a plan for the transition of farms with existing farm environment plans to the new FWFPs.

“These focus areas will be underpinned by engagement with mana whenua, the rural sector, and industry."

By Jonathan Leask