Horizons Plan Change 2
Proposed Plan Change 2 (PC2) is a response to an implementation issue arising from the One Plan framework. This issue has meant that a number of growers and farmers have been unable to obtain a resource consent from the regional council.
The notified PC2 changes include:
- An update to the cumulative nitrogen leaching maximums that apply to intensive land uses (which includes commercial vegetable growing) to reflect Overseer updates.
- Amendments to related policies and rules to reinforce Good Management Practice and provide a consent pathway for those who cannot meet the nitrogen leaching maximums in Table 14.2.
The decision version of PC2 was notified by Horizons Regional Council on 13 April 2021 - however it has been appealed.
- The PC2 decision has been appealed to the Environment Court and HortNZ has joined these appeals as an interested party. It is expected that there will be a mediation process to see whether appeals can be resolved, or proceed to an Environment Court hearing. This process has been delayed by the release of the Overseer Review Report by Government (as this highlights issues with the use of Overseer in plans) as the implications of this are being considered.
- This means that the PC2 decision provisions are not fully operative and creates uncertainty, however, they do have legal effect and apply alongside the existing One Plan provisions.
Under the current One Plan rules, existing intensive farming land use in target catchment’s require resource consent – regardless of whether Table 14.2 can be met. However, currently the policy framework of the plan have led to implementation challenges, whereby it is very difficult to get a consent if Table 14.2 is not met.
PC2 is intended to provide a workable consent pathway for existing intensive farming land use in target catchments.
- PC2 was notified on 22 July 2019 – from this date, the rules in PC2 have had ‘legal effect’. This means that they have to be complied with, in addition to the existing rules.
- Applications lodged while PC2 is still ‘proposed’, will be considered under both the current One Plan and PC2 provisions. The current One Plan provisions remain in effect until PC2 is operative. Further information on what PC2 means for applying for consent can be found here.
Horticulture New Zealand has been involved in consultation prior to the notification of PC2, lodged a submission and further submission and presented expert evidence at the Council hearings.
Decisions on PC2 were adopted by the Regional Council in April 2021 - the Plan change is still in a statutory process. Submitters on the Plan Change have an appeal period of 30 working day to make an appeal on parts of the decision to the Environment Court.
The Horizons One Plan is a combined regional Policy Statement, Regional Plan and Coastal Plan. It sets out policy and rule for the management of fresh water, air, productive land and natural ecosystems across the region.
- The One Plan has included rules applying to existing farms in target catchments since 2010 for dairy farming and 2013 for commercial vegetable growing, cropping, and intensive sheep and beef farming.
- These rules in the One Plan are based on Table 14.2 Cumulative nitrogen leaching maximum’s (CNLM) calculated from Overseer. A CNLM is the total kg of nitrogen leached per hectare per year for the total area of a farm, calculated using the values for each land use capability class.
- PC2 seeks to amends the rules relating to existing intensive farming land uses in the target Water Management Sub-zones, including adding a new Discretionary Activity rule.
Target Water Management Sub-Zones
are catchments where land use activities are significant contributors to elevated contaminant levels. The plan manages water by geographic areas called ‘Water Management Sub-zones’ – the sub-zones that are target catchments are listed in Table 14.1 of the One Plan (Water management sub-zones are mapped in Schedule A of the One Plan).
Intensive farming land uses
includes dairy farming, commercial vegetable growing, cropping, intensive sheep and beef farming. The definition for commercial vegetable growing in the One Plan includes areas greater than 4ha used for producing vegetable crops for human consumption.
HortNZ’s supports the intention to provide a workable consenting framework for commercial vegetable growing and reinforce Good Management Practices as part of intensive farming land use activities. However, HortNZ are concerned that the use of Overseer and policy deficiencies in the Plan do not provide an equitably provide a workable Controlled activity status for commercial vegetable growing, compared to other farming activities.
HortNZ’s submission sought to include:
- a specific rule and policy framework for commercial vegetable production that does not rely on Table 14.2
- a Controlled Activity rule that provides for existing commercial vegetable growing in target catchments, where the grower has a Farm Environment Plan, and meets GMP or BMP (for land in target catchments)
- A pathway for an amount of expansion for domestic food supply to meet population growth as a Restricted Discretionary Activity, and any additional expansion as a Discretionary Activity
- A policy framework which recognises constraints that apply to commercial vegetable growing (e.g. the need to rotate crops, difficulties of modelling) and the values associated.
- Definitions the recognise leased land as part of a farming enterprise
HortNZ refined their position in consultation with growers and experts in the evidence it presented at the PC2 hearing in October 2019.
Links to national freshwater policy
Horizons Regional Council had committed to a staged implementation of national standards for freshwater management on a catchment-by-catchment basis, which would see the NPSFM (2017 version) fully implemented in the Horizons region by 2027.
The NPSFM 2017, has now been superseded by the NPSFM 2020, and NESFM 2020 introduced.
To meet the NPSFM 2020 deadline to notify the plan change(s) by December 2024, instead of staged implementation it is now expected that there will be one RPS change and one Regional Plan change.