Changes to intensive winter grazing rules will make them more practical for farmers and effective in lifting environmental outcomes, Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.
“For New Zealand, our economy depends on our environment. Cleaning up our winter grazing practices protects our freshwater resources, the welfare of our animals, and our exporting credentials,” Damien O’Connor said.
“The Government has listened to feedback from farmers, industry representatives, iwi and hapū, environmental groups and regional councils, and have improved the rules to ensure they work better to achieve environmental outcomes.”
David Parker said new intensive winter grazing regulations were part of the Essential Freshwater package, which required farmers to improve on-farm practices.
“This package introduced rules for stock exclusion, stockholding, nitrogen fertiliser, rivers and wetlands, as well as other regulations designed to protect freshwater and control high-risk practices,” David Parker said.
“The changes were consulted on last year and will take effect from 1 November 2022, in time for farmers to plan for the 2023 winter grazing period,” Damien O’Connor said.
“The amendments will require grazed annual forage crop paddocks to be re-sown as soon as conditions allow, instead of by a set date.
“Specific requirements around the depth of pugging have been removed and replaced with a duty for farmers to take all reasonably practicable steps to minimise the effects of pugging on freshwater.
“A new condition has been added where critical source areas in winter crop paddocks will need to be identified and not cultivated or grazed.”
The changes will help protect the soil and waterways by placing greater importance on paddock selection and ensuring land is suitable for winter forage crops.
“Evidence shows soil loss greatly increases if winter forage crops are planted and grazed on slopes over 10 degrees,” David Parker said.
“Under the changes, farmers who want to undertake intensive winter grazing on slopes over 10 degrees will need to outline their controls to prevent soil loss and mitigate risks, either by applying for resource consent, or in a certified freshwater farm plan once they become available.”
Damien O’Connor said the freshwater farm plan system, due to be introduced from later this year, will provide another practical way for farmers to identify and mitigate environmental risks.
“We recently announced a $25 million package, which will expand and strengthen the farm advisory sector to help farmers with an integrated approach to farm planning,” Damien O’Connor said.
Following a report by the independent 2019 Winter Grazing Action Group recommendations were made to Ministers and changes have occurred.
“I set up the group to focus on the importance of animal welfare in intensive winter grazing,” Damien O’Connor said.
“The group’s final report shows farmers have made progress, however there is still work to do and we will continue to support farmers to refine their practices.
“This work forms part of the Government’s commitment to restore healthy waterways within a generation,” Damien O’Connor said.
The intensive winter grazing regulations are part of efforts to improve freshwater health and management through the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. More details can be found here.
You can read the Winter Grazing Action Group’s report here.