ES requires consent for dairy farms

A plan change by Environment Southland means all new dairy farms will require resource consent:

Owners of all new dairy farms in Southland now have to apply for resource consent after a contentious plan change was approved by Environment Southland.

Plan Change 13 was notified nearly two years ago and trialled in the past year, with Environment Southland adopting it in a public-excluded council meeting yesterday.

Under the new rules, all new dairy farms need a resource consent before becoming operational.

Applicants require a conversion environmental plan, which includes a soil assessment, a nutrient management plan and a winter grazing plan.

This imposes additional fees on top of those already charged for water and discharge permits and could cost farmers about $1000 in total.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said the rule would provide the council with a tool to meet the community’s concerns for water quality, while also meeting the council’s national obligations.

The new rules would help to ensure Southland’s water quality did not decline any further, she said. . .

ES is the first council to require consent for dairying.

Other councils could follow, though it would be sensible to wait and see whether the plan change works as it is intended to.

Few would argue with the intention to improve water quality but it will take some time to determine if this is the best way to achieve it.


21 Responses to ES requires consent for dairy farms

  1. Mr E says:

    This is a shocker by the Council – In my eyes. In fact I would call it an absolute shocker. A disgrace.

    It compares to parents needing a parenting plan before a baby is born. Costing thousands. Imagine the government doing that to our families.

    Let me make this very clear – The purpose of this plan was to limit conversions on sensitive soils in Southland. Given that 2 conversions have occurred on relatively light soils, I would say this plan has failed.

    There is a gap in the rules so big you could drive a bus through it.

    Actually you could probably fit the dairy industry through and plonk it on top of Waituna. That’s a joke by the way.

    Dairy farmers under this scheme, have lost management control of their farmers. If they wish to change their fertiliser type, or amount, timing they need approval. If they wish to change their stock numbers to take advantage of extra feed, or changes in growth patterns – they need approval.
    Hell, if they wish to change the species of trees they plant, they need approval.
    Or a paddock needs a new drain – approval required.

    And who knows what will be approved and what wont. The council are not farmers- I doubt they sympathise with the needs of a farmer.

    The Council runs farms now. Not farmers. Farming is all about timing and farmers have lost control of it.

    Imagine a feed deficit occurring on farm – All of the following typical actions need approval.
    Nitrogen use
    Feed purchased in
    Stock number changes
    Grazing off
    Growing forage crops

    There’s no doubt in my mind, in order to avoid starvation of stock, farmers are going to have to break the rules. Ill be interested to see how the council punishes such behaviour.

    I disagree with you last paragraph Ele, This rule has already been tested as an interim rule over nearly 2 years. It is not the least cost for the most benefit. Rather the opposite, its the most cost for the least benefit, I reckon. And it has failed to deliver its most basic goal. Restricting conversion.

    This is only a small segment of my concern. I’d convey the rest but this is a blog not a thesis.


  2. TraceyS says:

    Mr E, wouldn’t deviations from the Management Plan be acceptable on an equivalent effects basis? The purpose of the Management Plan being to manage effects on the environment not to tell someone how to run their business. You seem to interpret the contents of a Management Plan as separate conditions. But do they have the same standing as conditions in a legal sense? If they do then they should be stipulated as conditions of the consent. Maybe that is yet to be tested.

    Does the Council have to approve every Management Plan alteration no matter how small? What if the Council doesn’t approve a minor Management Plan alteration? Is that a breech of consent? If Management Plan contents are enforceable, non-negotiable, hard and fast limitations then they should be made conditions of the consent so it is clear to all. I would want that clarity rather than run the prospect of having conditions placed on the operation via a back door.


  3. Mr E says:

    Small changes do not need notification. But what is small in your eyes might not be in theirs. There is little guidance to follow. Just their verbal reassurances they wont sweat the small stuff.

    But imagine you gain 10 cows each year. In 10 years your effluent hose pops off and you get busted – Council says – lets check your Farm Management Plan – oh deary me an extra 100 cows we didn’t know about. How big should we make your fine?

    Yes if you don’t get approval to make changes – you could be in breach of your consent.

    Please note the contents of the requirements of the Farm Management Plan can change at a whim. They already have here in Southland. One councillor had a ‘bee in her bonnet’ about riparian planting – so they rewrote it. No rule change required. Just rewrote it.

    Imagine the certainty farmers now have of their future.


  4. Mr E says:

    Tracey – regarding equivalent affects – Every time you make a change you’ll have to consult Overseer or guess the impacts. Overseer has a error of 25-30%. What happens if you calculate it wrong? What happens if Overseer is wrong? What happens when Overseer version 7 comes out and say you’ve made things worse?

    What happens if you use an Environmental consultant to calculate the answer and she/he gets it wrong.

    The answer to all this – more cost.

    Why O Why don’t we spend this time and money on education????

    I call for the Government to make a change. Legislation should control the amount councils spend on education. Lets not encourage our councils to become socialist, nanny state, ninnies. Fundamental principles should be stronger. Education is a powerful tool, lets please use it to greater effect.


  5. TraceyS says:

    I can imagine it, Mr E.

    Since the relevant consent condition should set out the contents required in the management plan, how can later “whims” or afterthoughts be made a requirement? If the consent didn’t say the management plan had to include a plan for riparian planting, how can that be added as requirement later? I can see how it could be for new consents. But for existing ones?


  6. robertguyton says:

    New consent rules welcome

    (In which ‘Mr “Glass half-full” E’ reveals himself as a Fed)

    Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014

    OPINION: Environment Southland’s decision to lock in resource consent requirements for all new dairy farms in Southland is a case of bureaucracy gone sane.

    This is not ill-considered populist scapegoating at the expense of property rights.

    Nor is it is a tokenistic rubber-stamping ritual – even though the point will not be lost on anyone that throughout the extended trial process not a single application has been turned down.

    What we have here is an example of politicians and bureaucrats moving, perhaps imperfectly, in the right direction and reacting to a great deal of public and scientific concern about the degradation of water quality.

    The council’s initiative lines up with the signal sent by the National Policy Statement on Freshwater, which limits the tolerance for contaminants allowed in catchment waterways.

    With this in mind, Federated Farmers Southland dairy secretary Allan Baird acknowledges a degree of inevitability to Environment Southland’s decision.

    The council has made dairying a consent-requiring activity rather than simply a permitted one. It requires new dairy farm owners to provide a soil assessment, a nutrient management plan and a winter grazing plan against which their application will be judged.

    Initial farmer concerns, while far from entirely abated, do seem to have eased in some quarters. The so-far-so-good experience of applicants surely accounts for a large part of what improvement there has been, though there has perhaps been a thaw in relations as well.

    When the new requirements were first being tabled, dealings between the council and farmers were, shall we say, testy.

    Mr Baird is able to report improved dialogue more recently. Pleased to hear it.

    Environmental protectionists may be drumming their fingers for evidence that, where necessary, the brakes will be applied to the ambitions of those seeking to convert to, or expand, their dairying operations. But the fact remains that the new standards are so far being met.

    And it is hard to say how many operations that might have been tempted to dairying have reconsidered on the basis of the new rules.

    More broadly, and pleasingly, Environment Southland has been reporting improved compliance performance from southern farmers generally, though a great swath of the farming community is looking with more than a little reproach at local territorial councils which nobody can pretend have got their own act together.

    How many voices were raised in indignation throughout southern farmhouses when the regional council reported that for the 2012-13 financial year the Southland District Council, which holds 19 consents for treated sewage discharge, returned more than 50 breaches of consents?

    Our district and city councils face major spending to tidy up their guilty discharges and their ratepayers are going to feel the cost.

    But it’s an imperative. A big, scary imperative.

    – © Fairfax NZ News


  7. TraceyS says:

    “Every time you make a change you’ll have to consult Overseer… What happens if Overseer is wrong? What happens when Overseer version 7 comes out and say you’ve made things worse?

    What happens if you use an Environmental consultant to calculate the answer and she/he gets it wrong.”

    Unless you have breached a consent condition then you should not be prosecuted. It would be a ridiculous situation to be prosecuted when you are meeting all of your conditions of consent regardless of whether your management plan is approved or not, because that’s the purpose of a management plan. The way I look at it is that if you’re meeting all your consent conditions then by virtue of that your management plan is doing all that it should. It is not a vehicle for anything else, although some may like to think it is. You may have got things wrong in your management plan, that is almost inevitable, but this doesn’t necessarily lead to a breach of consent conditions.

    If you end up operating outside your consent conditions, for whatever reason, it means your management plan hasn’t worked and then you’ll have to make changes in order to be compliant. I guess the good thing about needing consent is that if you are operating within your consent conditions then they’ll be looking at someone else, not you. It provides some certainty for those who can achieve this. But I agree it will cost.


  8. Mr E says:

    It is funny watching you flounder in identification attempts.

    Its also funny watching you promote other opinions, and sit silently on your own. I wonder why?
    Is it possible your ‘test’ has failed?

    Also funny to see you promote the double standard that exists. Prosecute farmers who sneeze in the wrong direction – Tolerate “guilty” towns folk and their representative councils.

    Tracey – Consent s pursuant to the Farm Management Plan – Get it wrong and get no approval to change- Breach or broke?

    Changes can not be made to your Farm Management plan requirements by the council once consented. But my understanding is new requirements for new conversions can be made at a whim with out RMA process. As has already been done – with numerous changes made to the document in question . If the council thinks new conversions should only milk cows if they grow and orchard of organic heritage apples – Boom, done. Consultation zip zero nada. It’s a farm management Plan and the councils expectation will change with time. And I understand they will suiting the mood of those sitting on the committee at the time.

    So I cant help you with certainty issues. The diary industry will just have to throw caution to the wind.


  9. TraceyS says:

    “If the council thinks new conversions should only milk cows if they grow and orchard of organic heritage apples – Boom, done.”

    Councils can impose any conditions they want on a new application, but surely such requirements are legal only if they are necessary to manage environmental effects. That’s the whole point of the RMA isn’t it?


  10. robertguyton says:


    Some people are natural complainers.

    Rule 13 is a good one. I worked hard to get it through.


  11. Mr E says:

    What is done on a farm that doesn’t affect the environment? Positive and negative affects are dependant on the perception of the person.

    One mans exciting coal industry is another’s devil beast. So to speak.

    Bet your really pleased about the 2 farms on ‘light soils’ then.
    And you are wrong. When it comes to the Rule 13, I reckon the glass is 95% empty.

    The 5% (containing milk) represents those farmers who have gone through the process and the education they have received. Albeit ridiculously expensive education. But I cant ignore they have been educated in the wants and ways of the Council. If only this education came in a cheaper less socialistic form.

    In the mean time – to the rest of the dairy industry – Milk baby Milk. Robert has forgotten about you. Either that or he’s spent all his time on rule 13.


  12. Mr E says:

    “What we have here is an example of politicians and bureaucrats moving, perhaps imperfectly, in the right direction and reacting to a great deal of public and scientific concern about the degradation of water quality”

    Publics greatest concern is the economy. Miles ahead of environment. its been studied locally.


  13. robertguyton says:

    “Economy, miles ahead of Environment”

    Your statement say it all. The ‘Public’ may or may not hold Economy over Environment, Mr Enonymous – but any individual who does, is a fool. If you sincerely believe your claim to be true, and I believe you do, then you are that fool I describe.

    It’s very interesting though, that your view is at such stark odds to that of the editorial writer. A balanced, thoughtful reader would find the editorial to be fair and balanced, but would find your views on this matter, extremist. You an extremist, Mr Enonymous? That’s how you come across. Perhaps that’s why you hide behind a false name.


  14. robertguyton says:

    “Milk baby milk”?

    Like jabba, a hot-headed extremist, your standards have slipped well below the ‘worth-debating-with’ line, Mr Enonymous.


  15. jabba says:

    congratulations Mr E .. you have made it into bOb’s little green book


  16. TraceyS says:

    Mr E at 4:47 pm I can only partly agree with your statement “[p]ositive and negative affects are dependant on the perception of the person.” It’s true, I think, that the way an activity “affects” people’s perceptions is part of what the RMA considers as well as “effects” on the environment (I listened to an Environment Court Judge express this in Court). So someone down in the town might feel “affected” by an activity upcountry that they are not directly “effected” by. But surely this would only be a problem in the situation discussed here if consents had to be publicly notified, or perhaps if one of your neighbours happened to be anti-dairying then could make life difficult by saying the sight of full udders gave them a splitting headache or some other ridiculousness. But environmental effects are not perceptions. They are real, measurable things. If they weren’t, you could never get consent, because it would be impossible to control something that is airy fairy.

    I wouldn’t be that concerned about having to obtain non-notified consent. But watch for a future change in status requiring notification. Then all and sundry can put the boot in.


  17. Mr E says:

    Are you trying to be tricky? I had not suggested people choose one over the other – But lets test this statement:

    “The ‘Public’ may or may not hold Economy over Environment, Mr Enonymous – but any individual who does, is a fool”

    You choose to drive a car, burn carbon in your heating system, consume all manner of goods wrapped in plastic and paper. At the expense of the environment – Yes?. Using your definition that makes you a fool. Great.

    Fair and balanced? – Now I know you are having me on. To me, it seems we’ve swapped one set of sandals for another.

    You’re criticising my debating style, but what have you added to the debate? Someone elses opinions – Nothing about the rule. None of your own opinions to debunk my claims about the rule. Just tricky diversion.
    There’s been recent suggestions something is stopping you from speaking your mind. I’m left wondering the same. Are you now just a puppet mimicking others behaviours, riding someone’s bandwagon, driven by a gasless horse?


  18. robertguyton says:

    Puppet? Yes, of course.
    No free-thinker, me.
    Doing my master’s bidding.
    Little lap-dog.


  19. Mr E says:

    Tracey – You can’t measure diffuse pollution. We try to model it – with inaccuracy. But we can’t measure it. This rule change is all about diffuse pollution.

    It makes it hard to blame with any level of accuracy. What happens instead is people get bashed for ‘potential’ polluting. Simply because we know some behaviours CAN lead to pollution. We often cant measure it or prove it – but we perceive it based on our understandings. Sometimes these understandings can be flawed. The monsterous changes in the outputs of the Overseer model are great evidence of this.

    From that side this rule change is very clever – diffuse pollution can come from many sources and often a complex interaction variables. Farm managemnt plans look to control those variables.
    But complex problems don’t need to be solved with complex solutions. When it comes to compliance and behaviour change, the last thing we want is complex solutions.

    Simple – that is what works. Like a 3 metre rule. Simple to to working well according to ES.

    Vs Farm management plans, controlled by the council. It aint gonna work. Loop holes are easy to find. People find a way to keep doing what they always did.


  20. TraceyS says:

    Point taken Mr E. I’m no fan of modelling either. I like simple and agree it is the way to go. People have to want to change and simple helps with that. Complexity will bring greater litigiousness. Money which could have been spent on environmental solutions will go to lawyers instead.


  21. Mr E says:

    Sadly – the money will be gone on environmental consultants long before a lawyer can be employed.
    Or if you’ve got a block of land on ‘sensitive soils’ the moneys been robbed – indirectly by ES, due to devaluation of land. Even if they could create a low nutrient output system, the devaluation of land means equity has been robbed – And for those that have lost significant amounts – banks may not loan the conversion cost.
    They’re victims of the councils great ideas and ‘consultation’. Do I expect any sympathy from the council. No way.


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