Time is fast running out to iron out all the issues with Overseer, writes Federated Farmers North Otago Dairy Chair Jared Ross.

Key Otago Regional Council Water Plan nitrogen leaching rules take effect in April 2020 and your attention is needed immediately.

A recent meeting on the Otago water plan drew a sizeable crowd, who picked a number of gaping holes in the regulation as they tried to understand the real impact on their business beyond April 1, 2020.

Many of these shortcomings relate to the hard numbers based on Overseer contained with the Otago water plan.


Throughout plan submissions, the council was advised that these arbitrary numbers simply wouldn't work in practice, across the region.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

Issues around Overseer were confirmed in a recent report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who made a number of recommendations including a comprehensive evaluation of the farm nutrient-use tool, indicating peer review and a sensitivity and uncertainty analysis to be completed for the programme.

Federated Farmers North Otago Dairy Chair Jared Ross. Photo / Supplied
Federated Farmers North Otago Dairy Chair Jared Ross. Photo / Supplied

The limitations of Overseer as a regulatory tool are now acknowledged, and central government is expected to provide a weightier contribution with regard to modelling and environmental regulation.

In my view, there is no right time when a rigid numerical limit in a plan will necessarily be desirable nor effective.

However, that does not mean our agricultural production industries can treat the responsible evolution of primary production as too hard or expensive to cater.

I fear there is too much disconnect between the fast approaching timeframes and a robust regulatory position that can be accepted and delivered with known impact for the farmer.

There is much cloudiness over what is expected and much of this uncertainty is nationwide.


The change in the Government and signals of further Resource Management Act reform mean we are as close as ever to the pointy end of the process as we have been.

The federation has quality policy staff who are well positioned to challenge the workability of council regulation, but the best outcomes will eventuate if we all face this together in a proactive and constructive manner, and encourage strong cohesion with other stakeholders.