One Plan

September 2008
The Manawatu-Wanganui region encompasses around 8% of New Zealands land area. There are 6000 farms in the region.

Horizons Regional Council is trying to strike a balance between using natural resources for economic and social well-being of the region, while keeping the environment in good health. The result of the balancing act is One Plan.

The focus of the plan is on what they see as the four biggest environmental issues in the Region:

surface water quality degradation,

increasing water demand,

unsustainable hillcountry land use

threatened native biodiversity.

The One Plan is part of Horizons Regional Council functions under the Resource Management Act 1991.

They are describing the One Plan as a one-stop-shop regional planning document.

It defines how the natural and physical resources of the Manawatu-Wanganui

Region will be cared for and managed by Horizons Regional Council in partnership with Territorial Authorities and the community.

In this story we are looking at the progress of the One Plan and how it applies to a diary farm in the Manawatu.

Case Study - Tutu Totora Farm

The farm is 11 km north-east of Marton. It is managed by David Marshall who also works for Fielding based company AgInvest day to day operations are in the hands of a manager.

The property is 750 ha - but is in the process of on-going development.

Theres a diary platform that was milking around 800 cows and producing around 1140 kg MS/ha. That is in the process of lifting numbers and David tells me they are looking at around 1500 cows in the near future.

The property also runs a sheep and beef unit which also supports the dairy block wintering around half the herd and rearing some of the dairy heifer replacements.

They also have Kelso ram lambs to be sold as breed rams and some lamb finishing. The final part of the business is maize production most of that destined for the diary farm as maize silage.

From April 1, 2014 all intensive farms in the region that Tutu Totara Farm occupies, are required to have a Farm strategy this has to cover off on N-loss, N-limits and One Plan compliance.

The idea behind the One Plan is that there will be one plan that covers off on all the consents for a farm rather than the traditional approach of having several separate consents. In the long term it is hoped that the process will be much simpler, quicker and considerably less expensive.

A Farm Strategy is a necessary prerequisite for a whole-farm consent.

There's been an exploratory Farm Strategy done for Tutu Totara which is an assessment of permitted and controlled activities on the farm and a strategic plan to ensure those activities comply with One Plan specifications and water quality targets. It includes a nutrient budget, nutrient loss and mitigation activities, identifying best practise options that meet the requirements without putting too much strain on farm performance.

The farm is already using practises to mitigate environmental damage.

Some of these are already requirements under the Clean Streams Accord codes.

- Use of feed pad off farming grazing during winter

- Use of bridges and culverts

- Use of high-energy low N feeds ( maize grain )

- Protect important wetlands.

- Excluding cattle from rivers and streams

The farm is operating within N-loss limits set under the One Plan. However the numbers will change as cow numbers increase.

The main issue for Tutu Totara appears to be farm dairy effluent management. Around 13.8 ha is currently covered by the travelling irrigator. Theres also a sump overflow issue. It has been recommended to the farm that they construct a bigger effluent pond, enlarge effluent application area and reduce water consumption by using an improved wash down system. (This is a requirement under Clean Streams as well)

The farm survey also looked at nil N fertiliser application over winter. (Currently urea is applied to winter on the Dairy platform to increase late season production) This is predicted to reduce N-leaching from the dairy farm - at a rate of 1kg N/ha/yr however the financial implications were large in comparison with minimal environment impacts.

The use of inhibitors for urease and Nitrification were also looked at it is estimated that use of these may decrease N loss by 1.4kg N /ha/yr.

David Marshall says since the original exploratory Farm Strategy document was done on Tutu Totara things have changed. They have rearranged the mix of sheep, beef & crops, expanded the size of the farm and looked to lift cow numbers on the existing platform.

He says the threat the One Plan poses to his business is that as time moves on production lifts and environmental rules around the farm will change. He says that the wider public wont accept detrimental impacts on the environment, so they dont want to put their heads in the sand, but at the same time hes cautious about some of the rules and the slightly speculative nature of some of the requirements.

Greg Carlyon from Horizons Regional Council says that their overall approach to One Plan is to use methods that encourage responsible resource use, benefit responsible resource users and punish irresponsible resource users.

They recognise that to make the changes they want to make on the Big Four issues, farmers will need to change in some cases making significant changes to common practise.

To get farmers on board theyve committed to working with local communities, adopting practical solutions, coming up with things that are sensible and affordable.

They want change to be voluntary but say if that doesnt work they will switch to using rules that require change.

They are currently hearing submissions on the plan; a process that is due to run on for some time before being rolled out into the final document.

On 3 July 2008 the Dominion Post reported that Dairy farmers have been told they needed to get their effluent disposal and stock water consents in order before the start of this seasons milking.

Farmers heading into the new dairy season without adequate effluent disposal systems in place face heavy penalties and fines.

The region's 900 dairy operations have been sent letters urging them to contact the council, (which covers Tararua, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Rangitikei, Wanganui and Ruapehu districts), if they have expanded herd sizes without modifying their effluent disposal and stock water consents.

They were told the council plans to start a concentrated campaign of inspections in August 2008.

Surface Water Quality Degradation

Run-off of nutrients, sediment and bacteria from farms is now the single largestthreat to water quality in the Region. In some waterways it is risky to swim orgather food, and aquatic life is being damaged. Horizons estimate that 11 catchments in the region come under this category.

Set water quality standards for ecosystem, recreational, cultural and water-usevalues identified for catchment water management zones. Identify watermanagement zones most affected by nutrient enrichment and/or bacterialcontamination. Use a mixture of persuasion, advice and rules to manageagricultural run-off in these water management zones.

Increasing Water Demand

The amount of water used from ground and surface water resources increaseseach year. At certain times of the year public water supply and irrigation demandexceed what some waterways in the Region can supply.

Horizons has set minimum flows and defined core allocation volumes for watermanagement zones under pressure from surface takes. These will be used tomanage and allocate water. Horizons is also working with water users toencourage water-use efficiency and accurately define abstraction rates usingtelemetered water meters.

Unsustainable Hillcountry Land Use ( previously covered by RD in 2005/6)

Unsustainable pasture-based farming practices in our Regions fragile hill countrydamage the soil and accelerate erosion and muddy waterways, increasing riversiltation downstream and reducing the protection level of flood control schemes.

Implementation of a Sustainable Land Use Initiative on highly erodible land withinthe Region in combination with rules where appropriate. The initiative isunderpinned by the development of whole farm business plans. These voluntaryplans provide paddock-scale best land management advice while optimisingeconomic return to the landowner. The first whole farm business plan was pilotedon a farm in the ohangina Valley in 2005 and the programme is currently beingrolled out in priority areas.

Threatened Native Habitats

Due to more than a century of landscape modification, our Region has lost muchof its native habitat. Habitat remnants continue to be threatened by landdevelopment and by plant and animal pests.

Horizons will be the lead agency for biodiversity management for the Region bycontrolling activities in rare and threatened habitats, at-risk habitats and workingwith landowners to protect and enhance these habitats.Horizons has identified the Regions top 100 wetland habitats and is encouragingtheir owners through advice and financial incentives to actively manage thesehabitats. The objective of the programme is to have all 100 wetlands under activemanagement within 10 years.

Notably not in favour of the One Plan is former Feds president Charlie Pedersen - he says that the proposed rules under the One Plan make farming a consented activity and place restrictions on nutrient discharges from properties. He says that farmers are fearful of having to reduce stock numbers as the only way of reducing nutrient loadings.

He asks the question: Do the public really wish to trade off farm viability for better recreational opportunities?

He likens forcing farmers to reduce stock numbers or in some way downsize their farming businesses is like asking a landlord to reduce his building by two floors.

He says Horizon has yet to come up with an economic impact analysis for the One Plan.

Rural Women New Zealandis calling for less bureaucracy in the One Plan. Their spokesperson Margaret Millard says, Horizons Regional Councils resources should be focused on basic infrastructure issues rather than non-specific environmental outcomes where the costs are clear but the benefits are not. She also says that the One Plan is based on pessimistic predictions about what is going to happen some of the regions environmental resources. She says that basically they should stick to the knitting, and not implement any unnecessarily burdensome and impractical regulatory processes and activities. She also says they dont have to resources.