Consultation – Farmer Feedback

Consultation – Farmer Feedback

Summary of Farmer Feedback on Draft Nutrient Rules for Lake Rotorua catchment

Meetings held 8th & 22nd September 2014, both at Ngongotaha Football Club.

Two public meetings were held to gauge feedback on the draft nutrient rules:

  • 8 September: 90 participants, largely drystock farmers plus some dairy farmers and small block owners  (facilitated  by Barbara Hunt, ex Federated Farmers)
  • 22 September: 150 participants, mostly small block owners, particularly from the horse fraternity (facilitated by Sharon Morrell, DairyNZ)

Where possible, the points raised in these meetings are  grouped under the six questions used in the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s (BOPRC) consultation documents. At the 22 September meeting, it was clear that many small block owners were upset about both the content of the draft rules and that they had only just been informed about them. These views are captured in the Rotorua Daily Post article here.


Where possible, this document provides responses to some of the questions raised, including responses from BOPRC. The responses have been collated by Simon Park in his role as BORPC-funded Collective support person. The responses aim to be helpful but there is no assumption that the Collective agrees with the responses provided.


Some acronyms are used in the tables below, including:

NDA = Nitrogen Discharge Allowance, measured in kilograms per hectare per year (kgN/ha/yr)
RMA = Resource Management Act
StAG = Stakeholder Advisory Group


Question 1: Do you think the proposed consenting process is a reasonable approach to manage nitrogen loss in the Lake Rotorua catchment?
Points RaisedPost Meeting Responses
Costs – What is the cost to get a consent for farms and small blocks?
What will the experts cost for this process?
BOPRC estimates $1500-2000 to process controlled activity consents but this may vary due to complexity of each application. This cost estimate does not include application preparation costs. However, some of these costs may be subsidised, notably expert nutrient assessments and Farm Nutrient Plans
What information is required, to what standard, what qualifications are required to gain a consent?Information requirements have not been defined yet.
Other regional councils require that anyone preparing an Overseer file and/or farm nutrient plan (as part of a resource consent) has passed a “Sustainable Nutrient Management” course at Massey University – see here
How long will the consents be?The draft rules say 20 years. The Collective is asking for 35 years which is the RMA maximum.
What will be the process for getting a consent?The process is largely defined by the RMA. BOPRC’s fact sheet on resource consents is here
How were the NDAs of 10 units established for farms 2-40ha?
What is the science basis behind the 10 kgN/ha/yr permitted limit?
The 10 kgN/ha/yr NDA limit applies to 2-40 ha properties that wish to remain as a permitted activity. BORPC expect some owners of 2-40 ha properties to apply for resource consent to leach more than “10 units”, although that process is not defined yet. The permitted activity threshold of 10 kgN/ha/yr is consistent with:
• The bottom-end of the draft 10-20 kgN/ha/yr NDA range suggested for drystock farms
• N loss rates for low-intensity drystock farming systems – this will become clearer when BOPRC publishes stocking rate (and type) look-up tables to guide farmers.
What will happen to our income with these new limits and is there a contingency plan to keep farming viable?The impact on farm incomes will vary widely, depending on current N loss, the NDA and farm/farmer resources. BOPRC’s fact sheet on the draft NDA cost impacts is here
Would Farm Nutrient plans reduce the requirement for a consent?The draft rules require Farm Nutrient Plans as part of the resource consent, not as an alternative. BOPRC’s explanation of farm nutrient plans is here
Monitoring – Will the Council be visiting?
Will I be prosecuted for non compliance?
It seems likely that either Council staff or their contractors would carry out monitoring visits to check NDA compliance. While the full NDA doesn’t kick in till 2032, Council wants to see some form of “managed reduction” prior to 2032.
Councils can prosecute farmers for non-compliance with RMA consents e.g. breaches of dairy effluent consents. Councils can also use infringement notices, abatement notices and enforcement orders.
Permitted activities can also be checked for compliance with the conditions in a plan, such as the (draft) 10 kgN/ha/yr limit
Question 2: Do you have any reservations about the proposed consenting process and what it means for landowners?
Points RaisedPost Meeting Responses
Drop in property values with no compensation
Capital value decreased – do rates decrease proportionally?
BOPRC and other councils do not compensate for property value impacts from new rules. The proposed $40 million fund is to “buy N” below NDA levels, not above NDA levels.
Rating adjustments have not been considered so far.
Cost of application $1500 - $2000; Nutrient budgeting consent costs if $5000 for 5 years; Monitoring costs – ongoing at least $200 per yearThese are the indicative costs from BOPRC’s fact sheet Cost of new rules
Question 3: Do you support including a short term consent for farmers who do not want to make planned, progressive nitrogen reduction?
Points RaisedPost Meeting Responses
Why should farmers in the catchment have to apply for a consent when farms outside the catchment don't?The Regional Policy Statement gives priority to the Lake Rotorua catchment although other catchments may follow nutrient limit-setting processes which may involve resource consents.
Councils generally require resource consents for an activity when they consider the level of environmental effect warrants it.
Option of 5 years to show/display that we can lower nitrogen losses before consents come into force – a moratorium i.e. Run Overseer for all farms, each farmer to produce a plan to reduce or have farm nutrient plan to show ways to reduce and then get this checked 2 yearly or so & if not achieving, then go to a consent.
Question 4: Do you support the suggested approach to allocate nitrogen to land use?
Points RaisedPost Meeting Responses
Support for suggested allocation approach 10-20 kgN/ha/yr
Support with proviso otherwise may have rules imposed, not if but WHEN!
Federated Farmers appeal on the Regional Policy Statement succeeded in pushing the NDA deadline from 2022 out to 2032. BOPRC are considering if part of the NDA needs to be met by 2022 – this was opposed by the Collective at the 16 September 2014 StAG meeting.
Overseer program flawed by +/- 20% so should be allowed for as a 20% variance flexibility (margin of error).
Too many issues with the Overseer model to use for regulation
It is not clear how uncertainty in Overseer predictions should be handled within new rules.
Regional Councils are considering how to best use Overseer in rules while acknowledging its limitations. Although Overseer is far from perfect, an alternative of directly regulating farm inputs (like stock type and rate) would be “telling farmers how to farm”.
Moving targets (ranges) with evolution of science knowledge and technology The Collective supports an “adaptive management” approach but the time to develop or change RMA plans makes this difficult.
We want solutions not just rules!There is $5.5 million budgeted for “support services” – some of this will go to investigating low N land uses. It is likely that solutions will need to be tailored for individual farms.
Question 5: Do you think an average 30% reduction for the dairy sector and an average 20% reduction for the drystock sector is reasonable?
Points RaisedPost Meeting Responses
What does a 20% drop look like - dropping 20% of stock units - does it depend on the age of the stock?
20% reduction for an individual is possible, however the proposed 20% downwards is a different scenario when put across the whole drystock sector.
There will normally be several options that singly or in combination can achieve a 20% reduction in N loss, including lower stocking and changing stock type and age class. Remember the 20% is an average drystock NDA reduction. Farms wholly or largely dedicated to dairy support will probably face much higher % reductions. The practicality and costs of meeting a 20% N reduction will vary greatly, as shown in the BORPC-commissioned report by Perrin Ag on NDA impacts here.
It’s easier for a dairy farm to decrease by 30% than a drystock farmer to decrease by 20%.Dairy farms have more N mitigation options but it isn’t necessarily easier or cheaper – it will vary from farm to farm.
If nitrates are tradable all landowners should start with the same allocation e.g. 18kg N per grazed hectare.A single NDA figure across pastoral land is possible but dairy farmers would then need to buy NDA from drystock farmers at a substantial cost. Note that if all landowners were treated equally, then a much lower single NDA level would be needed to cover forest owners as well.
20% decrease will have a huge impact on drystock economics of scale – compared to 30% for dairy farmers.
Why should a dairy farmer be allowed 30-40 when a dry stock farmer is allowed only 10–20 kgN/ha/yr?
Dry stock farms have much less nutrients cycling around in their farm system than dairy farms -
Much harder to make the required reductions and remain viable.
Dry stock farmers have also invested years and capital re infrastructure in their farms
Drystock have produced less nutrients for a longer period (Inter generational farms) and have retired land at risk over the years.
Drystock farmers have done a lot of voluntary retirement / mitigation over the years that will not be recognised.
The logic behind the draft NDA allocation numbers was developed with input from StAG and is summarised in BOPRC’s NDA fact sheet, notably that the draft allocation approach:
• Recognises existing land use and landowner investment
• Takes into account the current rates of nitrogen discharges
• Supports good land use practice
• Shares the burden of reduction across nearly all pastoral landowners.
Question 6: Would you prefer an alternative method be used to allocate nitrogen to the rural sector?
Points RaisedPost Meeting Responses
Too many variables of soil, rainfall, grass type, wintering systems to have one allocation system.A “natural capital” allocation system will be assessed and compared economically with the NDA approach in the draft rules. Under natural capital NDA allocation, soils and rainfall zones that can support more intensive land use with lower N loss will receive higher NDAs.
Bench marking figures are historical – farming systems have changed, not as much N applied today.
Modern day farming practices use more N now than 20-30 years ago but nowhere as much as dairy.
We will be giving them research data by providing the figures in our farm plans
Fertiliser N use and trends vary between farms and over time and the overall picture is confusing.
The Collective wants to collect and present Overseer-based evidence to clarify changes in N loss since the 2001-2004 benchmark period. – watch this space!
There is not sufficient research data to proceed with these Rules. Where is the Ground water data?
Where Kaharoa groundwater flow?
BOPRC’s science summary is here. The Collective thinks the science case for the rules is unclear, especially given the lake’s positive response to alum dosing, and continues to push for an early review of the lake and catchment science. A GNS report on Kaharoa groundwater is here.
Regional Council is both advisor and policemanAll Councils have this dual role. BOPRC intends to fund independent expert advisors to assist farmers consider options and prepare Farm Nutrient Plans.
Total vs Effective land use – pay rates on all retired land which is of benefit to the catchment.
NDA should be allocated to total/rateable land area.
Whole farm bench marks not just effective areas
The draft rules do anticipate that whole property NDAs will be the sum of “per hectare NDAs” applied to effective pasture and tree areas. This is the same approach as the existing Rule 11 benchmarks.
Pre-2001 mitigation (including retirement) is not recognised in the draft rules. It could be done but BOPRC would probably reduce NDA levels so the net result was still a 140 tonne N reduction due to rules.
Other farming solutions – No N, no supplement from off farm, no cattle wintered from outside the catchment.Each of these methods typically reduces N loss – they are used by now by some farmers and are likely to be used in the future to meet NDAs. However, the Collective is wary of promoting specific practices that may become inflexible if written into rules as an alternative to NDA allocation.
What about Property Rights?
You should be able to convert to dairy if you stay within your NDA.
Conversion to dairy is possible and has occurred in the catchment under Rule 11. It will become more difficult under the lower draft NDA levels although there is nothing specific about conversion in the draft rules.
Need to cull the wild bird life on the lakeBOPRC commissioned a 2002 report that found the wild fowl nutrient contribution to Lake Rotorua was low.
Replant the outside of the lake with reeds like it use to be years ago.
Create a wet land around the lake
Wetlands are a proven means of reducing lake nutrient inputs although the cost per kg of N (or P) tends to be higher than farm-based methods – see report.
Dredge the lake and use it to fertilise the farms.Dredging has been investigated and found to be expensive, plus the sediment contains geothermal-derived heavy metals
Maintenance of older retention dams to stop storm runoff (some of the dams have filled with sediment)The potential of using older dams and building new ones is referred to in an August 2014 presentation to StAG.
What about geothermal sources and road runoff?Investigations are underway on how to remove nitrogen from the Tikitere geothermal source. Rotorua District Council works to reduce nutrient and other contamination from stormwater inputs – see factsheet.
Where can landowners get advice?See BOPRC’s “Support and incentives” factsheet
Other points and questions raised?

These are some of the additional points raised at both meetings but especially the 22 September meeting. No responses are given but, like the questions above, you can use these in your own feedback as you wish.

Grand parenting data is from 2001 – 2004 – what should be considered?

  • Land use capability rather than what the land was used for in 2001-2004
  • Financial viability
  • Recognition of previous mitigation
  • Riparian strips
  • Conversion to pine trees
  • Reduction in N losses through technology e.g. effluent systems
  • The option to subdivide – under some circumstances you are unable to in rural A and rural B.

Other questions/comments

  • Should NDAs be based on total area or effective area?
  • Including riparian strips, tree blocks etc. shows lower N loss for total farm but focusing on effective area does not recognise existing mitigation work.
  • Council should buy land at market rates, reduce N and on-sell.
  • It is not feasible to obtain 2001-2004 property data, especially where the property has changed hands
  • There is too big a gap in the 2-40 hectare area thresholds
  • What is the nutrient contribution from pine pollen?
  • Publicly funded soil testing would provide an improved baseline
  • Will the rules change as the TLI changes, up or down?
  • The focus should be TLI, not nitrogen
  • The flow on economic effects to Rotorua are large
  • Jo Blow farmer does not understand the rules plus detailed Rules haven’t been written.
  • Owners of leased lands need to be able to delegate the responsibility of consent application to the lessee.
  • Existing lease contract will need to be changed involving more costs – legal advice needed
  • Why not a Memorandum of Understanding for each property.
  • Are MOUs legally binding?
  • Use rules without consent – why do we need a consent? Just create permitted rules to deliver better results.
  • Concern for the small farmlet and stewardship of the land becoming degraded
  • Pasture quality will revert and gorse and blackberry will re-establish
  • What about phosphate in the lake? More discussion is needed.
  • Will subdividing to below 2 ha avoid the limits?
  • If you get 10 units of N without resource consent and 13units of N with one, is it worth it?
  • Reallocate the $45 million to science to help fix the lake
[wpdm_file id=2]