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Natural resources and environment update

26 October 2021

This update will appear in the November issues of The Orchardist and NZGrower.

Written by HortNZ environment manager, Michelle Sands.

This update covers:

Northland Agrichemical Decision

The Environment Court has provided a final decision on the agrichemical rules in the Northland region in the Proposed Regional Plan for Northland.

In the Proposed Plan the case related to the provision, which Horticulture New Zealand appealed, did not allow application of agrichemicals (via ground-based or aerial application methods) when a spray-sensitive area was within 100m unless the wind direction was away from that area.

The decision of the Court, in summary:

  • More detail about the requirement for a risk assessment.
  • Included provisions that limit spraying in high wind (> 6m/s) and low wind inversion conditions.
  • Inserts a more nuanced, risk-based framework – depending on wind speed, direction, effective shelter – in relation to spray-sensitive areas and requiring buffer distances (aligning with NZS 8409 e.g. up to 30m for ground-based methods) in some circumstances.

HortNZ will be communicating on the new requirements with growers.

 

Outstanding Water Bodies mediation

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Plan Change 7: Outstanding Water Bodies, proposes to change the Regional Resource Management Plan (RRMP) to include a list of the region’s outstanding water bodies, together with a framework which prescribes a high level of protection for these water bodies in future plan making.  

The water bodies identified in the Proposed Plan Change 7 are the ‘best of the best’ within the region, featuring an exceptional cultural, spiritual, recreational, natural character, landscape, geological, or ecological value which is remarkable in Hawke’s Bay. 

The Proposed Plan Change 7 aims to protect these outstanding features, in their current state, now and for future generations. The decision on the Plan Change was appealed, and HortNZ has joined the appeal as a 274 party and will participate in mediation.

Appellants have sought that the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Aquifers be recognised as outstanding. HortNZ supports the decision which found these water bodies did not meet the criteria.

 

Overseer Review

Overseer has undergone a rigorous technical review following recommendations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) in the report Overseer and regulatory oversight: Models, uncertainty and cleaning up our waterways, 12 December 2018.

The review panel concluded that, in its current form, it would not have confidence in Overseer’s estimates of total nitrogen lost from farms. They identified a general concern with the model structure as well as some specific areas of concern.

Overseer has been a fundamental tool underpinning the planning regimes in a number of regions and the way in which the regulators will respond to the Overseer review is not yet clear. The Decision for Plan Change 7 in Canterbury has been delayed, as have the mediations in Plan Change 1 in the Waikato and Plan Change 2 in the Manawatu/Whanganui Region.

In Tukituki Plan Change 6, Council have determined that they will be unable to reliably assess whether individual high leachers are exceeding their Land Use Capability (LUC) nitrogen (N) allowance in the Plan without the use of Overseer. Council will still require applications for properties located within sub-catchments which are exceeding their DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) target. These farms require consent regardless of their Overseer estimated N loss. However, Council will not be able to determine the ‘activity class’, which is based upon the amount of N leaching modelled in an Overseer nutrient budget, as currently required by the rules in the plan. 

 

Emissions Reduction Plan

New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan sets out the actions we as a nation will take to meet the first emissions budget under the Climate Change Response Act. The plan also aims to set the country on the path to meet our second and third budgets, and transition to a low-emissions future in a way that is achievable and affordable.

Submission on the Emissions Reduction Plan close on 24 November 2021. HortNZ will develop a submission on behalf of all growers. HortNZ’s submission will promote:

  • Investment and strategy to enable transition for greenhouses, so we can continue to grow these crops in New Zealand.
  • He Waka Eke Noa partnership’s work in developing settings to drive lower emissions food production in New Zealand.
  • Policies that support expansion of horticulture which produces healthy, low emissions food.