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Tairāwhiti Freshwater Farm Plan Pilot

Monday 19 December, 2022

Tairāwhiti Fresh Water Farm Plan Pilot

Tairāwhiti has been selected as a pilot region for testing the new Freshwater Farm Planning (FWFP) regime. Working with MfE (Ministry for the Environment) representatives, Gisborne District Council land management staff are currently undertaking a “test run” of the FWFP process with a small number of farms.

New regulations are currently being developed that will require farmers to develop FWFPs. Three regions (Southland, Waikato and Tairāwhiti) have been selected to test run the development of farm plans under the new Freshwater Farm Plan process.

What are Freshwater Farm Plans?

Freshwater Farm Plans will require and provide a practical way for farmers to identify, manage and reduce risks from farming on the freshwater environment across the whenua. A key focus of Freshwater Farm Plans is using ‘catchment context’ (for example, catchment values and priorities, the cultural significance of the catchment, key contaminants of concern) to prioritise ‘actions’ for improving freshwater, to meet the needs of the wider catchment.

FWFPs will identify practical actions on farm that help improve your local waterways. Actions will be tailored to a particular farm’s circumstances, the physical environment and what is important in the catchment that farm is in.

Eventually all pastoral and arable farms over 20ha, and all horticultural properties over 5ha will be required to have a Freshwater Farm Plan. Freshwater Farm Plans will need to be certified to make sure they are fit-for-purpose, and audited to ensure the agreed actions for improving freshwater are being achieved.

See Freshwater farm plans | Ministry for the Environment for more background information.

The purpose of the pilot

The purpose of the pilot is to test the Freshwater Farm Plan system from start to finish in parts of Tairāwhiti, to figure out what aspects of the system do and don’t work in practice. Feedback from the testing will help shape aspects of the system that are still being worked through.

The pilot will last for approximately 6-8 weeks total.

For each farmer/grower, the pilot will involve:

  • The preparation of a mock Freshwater Farm Plan (either DIY or assisted by an advisor) (on-farm and desktop)
  • Mock certification of the plan (on-farm and desktop)
  • Mock audit of the certified plan
  • Providing feedback at all stages.

At the end of the pilot, each farmer/grower involved will have a mock Freshwater Farm Plan. The mock plan will not constitute a Freshwater Farm Plan, but it will be a useful starting point for when the regulations are eventually introduced to Tairāwhiti.

Once all pilot farm plans have been completed, a summary report will be prepared that provides an overview and evaluation of the process. This is intended to be a collaboration between all participants, including landowners. Key points from the report will also be used to socialize the farm planning process to the community.

The regional pilot is on a very tight timeline, with feedback on the core elements of the system required to be supplied to MfE by the end of November 2022. The focus of the feedback will be on how well the project achieved its objectives, where the gaps were, lessons learned and opportunities to take through to the rollout of FWFPs across the region. The review should also consider what reasonable timeframes can be expected for all farm plans to be completed within the region.