Content brought to you by DairyNZ.
DairyNZ supports all farmers having freshwater farm plans, but says the Government must recognise high quality planning already done by farmers.
The Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Primary Industries have now opened consultation on a broad framework for new freshwater farm plans.
DairyNZ said it wanted to see the framework acknowledge work already done by farmers and ensure it didn't add time pressures on-farm, or complication within regional plans.
"Dairy farmers are committed to improving water quality and have a lot of work already underway on farms, including 3400 existing Farm Environment Plans," DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr David Burger said.
"But doubling up on work and compounding that with short timeframes will put too much pressure on farmers. Recognising existing planning is crucial because farmers are already overwhelmed with too many regulations, coming in too hard and fast."
The pace and scale of new regulations was adding significant pressure on-farm, Burger said.
In a DairyNZ survey, 62 per cent of farmers said they, or someone on their farm, had experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months. The leading cause identified was changing regulation (60 per cent).
The Government signalled last year it wanted all dairy farms nationwide to have freshwater farm plans, as part of its Essential Freshwater policy reforms.
Consultation was now open.
DairyNZ would make a strong submission on behalf of dairy farmers to ensure fair and achievable rules, Burger said.
"For dairy farmers who already have a Farm Environment Plan that includes a strong focus on freshwater, it should be about updating it, rather than re-writing."
DairyNZ also wanted the freshwater farm plans to fit logically with regional plan regulations, to prevent re-work by farmers and dairy companies, Burger said.
Freshwater farm plans were a component of overarching Farm Environment Plans.
Through the Dairy Tomorrow Strategy, the sector committed to all dairy farmers having a certified Farm Environment Plan by 2025.
Listen to Brian Kelly interview Dr David Burger about freshwater farm plans on The Country Sport Breakfast below:
More than 3400 dairy farmers currently had one, including most dairy farmers in Canterbury.
The ministries proposed freshwater farm plans needed to be signed off by a certifier and then have actions audited.
It was proposed the plans wouldn't need a consent, which DairyNZ said it supported.
The ministries also proposed freshwater farm plans wouldn't be required nationwide all at once, but indicated some farms could be required to have them in the first half of 2022.
There was no indication yet who, or where, those farmers would be, Burger said.
"Where plans currently do not exist, the roll-out should start in priority catchments, where actions are needed most."
On the plus side, the ministry said it expected freshwater farm plans would be increasingly relied on, and would reduce the need for consents, Burger said.
"This makes sense and we support that."
Dairy farmers were committed to playing their part, alongside all New Zealanders, to reduce their environmental footprint, Burger said.
"Our farmers have been taking a wide range of on-farm actions for more than 20 years nationwide, to improve water quality."
Dairy companies had a key role in helping farmers develop and update their plans.
While the consultation was underway, DairyNZ recommended farmers continued working with their dairy companies to develop and update their plans.