Freshwater Farm Plans

What are they? 

Freshwater Farm Plans (FWFPs) are being introduced by the Government as a way for farmers and growers to manage the impacts of their farm or orchard activities on freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. They were introduced into the Resource Management Amendment Act 2020 in a new Part 9A, and the details of the rules and requirements are still being worked out. 

Once regulations are in place, horticultural operations five or more hectares, and farms (arable, pastoral or mixed use) 20or more hectares will need an audited and certified Freshwater Farm Plan.   

Freshwater farm plans will build from existing plans, but are not the same as farm environment plans. Freshwater farm plans will identify practical actions on farm/orchard 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.

Freshwater farm plan regulations are expected to take effect in 2022. The requirement for certified freshwater farm plans will be phased in from mid-2022.

What's required?

The Ministry for the Environment is finalising the specific requirements in regulations, including the content of Freshwater Farm Plans, who can audit and certify them, and when and where they will be required across the country. HortNZ is advocating for the GAP schemes to be recognised to deliver audited and certified FWFPs. When the new regulations are released HortNZ will notify growers of what they need to do.

In the meantime, growers can use the Environment Management System (EMS), developed by NZGAP and available to all GAP certified growers, to create a Freshwater Farm Plan. There may be some small additional steps to meet the Government's requirements, but HortNZ is advocating for recognition of the EMS. All growers can use the EMS as part of their GAP system, including GLOBALG.A.P. growers.

What is HortNZ’s position and why?   

The horticulture sector in New Zealand has had farm level assurance systems - Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) - for over 20 years. HortNZ seeks that the Freshwater Farm Plan regulations enable a process for GAP and environmental add-ons like the Environment Management System (EMS) to be approved to deliver certified Freshwater Farm Plans to growers.

There are significant benefits in implementation efficiency and environmental outcomes by providing a pathway for industry assurance programmes such as GAP to be recognised to deliver certified Freshwater Farm Plans. 

HortNZ support Freshwater Farm Plans as a robust and meaningful way to improve environmental outcomes associated with farming activities.

HortNZ also believes that growers need to be given enough time and support to adopt these changes. Given the right tools and time, growers can achieve freshwater objectives by adopting industry best practices through industry assurance programmes like horticulture's GAP schemes.

Read HortNZ's submission on MfE's Freshwater Farm Plan regulations - Discussion Document here.