Q & A’s from our Facebook Live Stream

10 October 2019

MfE 'Action for Healthy Waterways' submission Q&A

The current proposals essentially ‘lock in’ existing operations. Intensification will only be allowed to occur where there is no net increase in contaminant losses. This means that increases in land area for irrigated production and intensive winter grazing and changes in land use, will not be permitted if the scale of these changes exceeds a specified threshold.

For increases in land area for irrigated production and for changes to so-called ‘high risk’ land uses (such as from forestry to any pastoral uses, or from sheep and beef to dairy, or dairy grazing) the threshold beyond which resource consent is required is set at 10 ha. For land use changes to winter grazing and commercial vegetable cropping the baseline for your operation is set as the greatest total amount of land area for that land use on your farm in the period 2013 – 2018. That establishes the levels that you are ‘locked in’ at, and any change beyond these levels will require resource consent.

The current proposals also note that resource consents for these activities will only be granted if the activity does not increase nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment or microbial pathogen discharges

These restrictions are intended to be default restrictions until all regions have completed their freshwater plans.

For ORC, we are intending a full water plan review and our intention is to target our plan to the issues that each area faces. While we will be introducing bottom lines for good practice (both urban and rural), we will also have tailored solutions depending on your catchment and/or FMU which means that in some areas, some of the current restrictions may not be necessary, or not necessary to the same extent.

The key message for the intensification restrictions, or holding the line, is that it is more cost effective to restore waterways before they deteriorate.

For more information about these aspects of the proposals, see Section 8 on page 63 of Action for Healthy Waterways.

Some ORC concerns – There are currently no reliable methods for measuring sediment, e.coli etc. Overseer can be used to model likely changes for N and P, but there are limits to the reliability and robustness of this. Consent processes will be uncertain without an ability to effectively measure and understand changes in contaminant levels.

Pages 10 & 11 of the Action for Healthy Waterways document have a summary of proposals which is a helpful link for you.

Most of the provisions are under section numbers and that is helpful for MfE when summarising submissions. Just remember that it is key that you are clear about the following:

  1. what it is you are commenting on;
  2. why you are opposing or supporting these provisions; and
  3. how the proposed provisions can be improved.

Providing evidence for any position is helpful. Stories or experiences from your farm or property are also useful. Just remember that everything you submit is public information so make sure you are happy to share it before you include it in your submission.

By all means you can, but it is as useful to hear from land owners on the ground, as it is consultants. You are where the rubber hits the road and your experience is critical to policy development and implementation.

This link will take you to the first webpage for the Action for Healthy Waterways, and from there you can access other webpages with summaries of the whole package as well as more detailed information on the individual proposals.

We are also aware that most industry, sector and advocacy groups have undertaken some analysis and will have summaries available.

There will be enough people submitting with policy jargon, so you should focus on submitting in your language. That is as meaningful, if not more, than using policy jargon.

Allow yourself enough time to get all the points you have concerns about, or support, across. How much time depends on the level of detail and how many aspects you are interested in. Our experience is that most people leave things to the last minute so our advice would be to digest a few parts each night, jot some notes down, and then collate these at the end.

MfE have indicated their preference is to receive submissions via their online submission tool. This tool lists a series of questions that you will need to answer.

The tool can be accessed from the webpage https://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultation/action-for-healthy-waterways.

Section 12.2, on page 102 of the Action for Healthy Waterways document outlines all the ways you can submit. If you don’t wish to use the online submission tool (as you want to focus on different aspects), then an email or letter is better.

Remember if you are posting your submission, allow enough time for it to be delivered.

Yes. Writing a submission will help. The Government is committed to improving water quality for all New Zealanders, but it is important that actions to achieve this are realistic, affordable and beneficial. Your submission will assist to ensure that happens.

Make sure you identify any parts you like (for example you might agree with the overall intention) but also any parts that don’t work. The key to a good submission is not just to highlight what you don’t like, but also to offer alternative solutions.

The term waterway is not defined but the RMA defines a river as;

river means a continually or intermittently flowing body of fresh water; and includes a stream and modified watercourse; but does not include any artificial watercourse (including an irrigation canal, water supply race, canal for the supply of water for electricity power generation, and farm drainage canal)

MfE are asking for specific feedback in relation to where setbacks from waterways should be measured for stock exclusion. Therefore, providing practical examples of the types and differences on your farm is useful.

Questions you could ask yourself include: How do you think setbacks form waterways should be measured? What stock exclusion practices make sense on the ground? What types of barriers other than fences (e.g. natural barriers, hedges) are effective for preventing stock to access streams?

Yes. The more people that are involved in the submission process, the better the regulations will become. Without understanding implications of implementation, the policy can fall short. Now is the time to be involved.

There is no right or wrong length for a submission. The key characteristics of a good submission are: be clear about what your issues are, be clear how these issues could be resolved, and give examples. Be as concise as possible while still making your message clear and providing alternative management options (if you can). For example, you might support stock exclusion but think that a 5m average fence width is too much and will create issues for pest plants and rank grass. You might therefore suggest a lesser setback and suggest some low level infrequent controlled grazing outside of high-risk weather events, to manage pest plants and grass.

The process forward is outlined in section 12.1, on page 102 of the Action for Healthy Waterways document.

Once all submissions have been collated, they will be reviewed by officials and then considered by an Independent Advisory Panel. That panel will make recommendations to Cabinet.

Consider writing a joint submission with neighbours or an industry group, contribute ideas but leave the writing up to someone else.

You can also use the MfE’s online submission tool which requires responses to questions.

Its fine to share ideas and many people will have similar concerns. The key thing is that the submissions process is about quality (i.e. being clear and well-reasoned) rather than quantity (i.e. the number of submissions or length of the submission). So, getting your key messages clear and providing suggestions for improvements is a good outcome to focus on.

Yes, you can do that if you want. However, this may not necessarily provide much assistance for improving the proposals.

You might prefer to say something like “We agree with B + L when they say ‘’xxxx’ because on our farm it will mean ‘yyyy’.” So, it may be better to use your support for B + LNZ’s submission as a starting point or a guide, rather than just repeating it in its entirety.

At present the taking of water for stock water is allowed:

  1. if you have resource consent to take and use water for stock water supply; or
  2. if the taking and use of water for stock water supply is permitted by a rule in the Regional Plan: Water for Otago; or

In addition, Section 14 (3)(b) of the Resource Management Act also allows the taking of water for the reasonable needs of a person’s animals for drinking water, provided that the taking or use does not, or is not likely to, have an adverse effect on the environment.

The proposals do not directly address the taking of stockwater. However, the proposed NPSFM prioritises the health and well-being of waterbodies and freshwater ecosystems (1st priority) and the essential health needs of people (2nd priority) over other uses of water, including the taking and use of water for stock. This may mean that in the future the rules that allow for the taking of stockwater may become more stringent or that it may become more difficult to obtain a consent for stock water supply the rules.

The circumstances where a land use is considered to have intensified are outlined on page 64 of the Action for Healthy Waterways document. The examples include an increase in the area of irrigated land of more than 10 hectares.

It is not clear as to whether this proposed new rule will apply to actual areas under irrigation, or areas that are consented to be irrigated (but on a rotational basis, so have not yet actually been irrigated).

It would be great if the final proposal would be amended to provide greater clarity around this and related matter. Therefore, it would be a worthwhile point to submit on.

The proposal for stock exclusion is set out in the draft Section 360 Stock Exclusion Regulations, and is also summarised in section 8.5, on page 73 of the Action for Healthy Waterways document.

  • The proposal is to require exclusion of stock from all wetlands, lakes and rivers that are not ephemeral and more than 1 metres wide, with different time frames based on slope classes.
  • all existing fences to be moved to achieve the 5-metre average setback depending on the setback, by 2025 or 2035.

This question is outside the scope of the intent of the session. Staff noted at the time however that the Panel was appointed by the ORC based on relevant experience in dealing with wastewater discharges. In addition, the recommending report (called the s42A report) is available on ORC’s website, with the hearing set down for Monday 4 November 2019.

Soil permeability measurements determine how well water (effluent/run-off) flows through soil. Large pores in sand or granular soil allow water to move rapidly, while small pores in silt or clay cause water to seep through slowly. The more permeable the soil the greater the seepage.

Runoff from livestock feedlots can commonly contain elevated concentrations of chloride, nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment, and bacteria. The elevated concentrations can affect surface and ground water quality.

The proposed National Environmental Standard setting a minimum permeability standard of 10 9 m/s means that the seepage for feedlot bases must be very slow, and have reasonably impermeable soils (See diagram below for reference).


For feedlot operators it means you will need to demonstrate the permeability of your feedlot base meets the rule, and resource consent.  You may need to hire a professional to provide the initial tests.

The cost to obtain resource consents is highly variable and depends on the activity you are proposing, where you want to undertake this activity, how long you intend to do it for, and what the effects of the proposed activity are on the social, ecological, cultural and economic environment. ORC regulates taking, using, damming and diverting water and discharges to land, air and water.

The deposits for consents are set out in the Annual Plan and Long-Term Plan And can be found on the ORC’s website: https://orc.govt.nz/consents/ready-to-apply-for-a-consent

If all the proposals are enacted, then it is likely that some new consents may be required for activities we don’t currently regulate, such as stock exclusion or Farm Plans. We would need to understand the nature of these consents before we could set a consent deposit fee.

There are two places to look for the stock exclusion proposals: the first is in the Action for Healthy Waterways document, and the second is in the Stock Exclusion Regulations. The current proposal is for mandatory stock exclusion (not necessarily meaning fencing) of all waterbodies over 1 metre wide.

But there are also additional requirements in the Farm Environment Plan section, on page 76 of Action for Healthy Waterways, that discusses each farmer setting out a plan for managing their waterways that are under 1 metre wide. There is a general expectation of moving toward most waterways, irrespective of size, being fenced.

While ORC has not undertaken this specific research, we are aware that our neighbours in Southland considered the issue of appropriate setbacks in relation to the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan hearings in 2016. A link to the memo from their science team is attachedThere is more research also available and we can source additional information if required.

This question was not responded to at the time because it was asking how ORC would respond should provisions be introduced. At this early stage, we are still reviewing the proposals and their implications on ORC planned work programme. We are not in a position to outline to you exactly what we might do and when we might do this.

The table below shows how the catchments across Otago compare with the NOF bands. This table is extracted from the presentation ORC staff gave to Council on how different areas within our region measure up against particular contaminants.



General location of exceedences

A grade %

B grade %

C grade %

D (E) grade %

Below national bottom line

Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN)






Swimmability (E. coli)

Lower Clutha, N Otago, Manuherikia





Dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP)

Lower Clutha, N Otago, Manuherikia





Nitrate toxicity






Ammonia toxicity












Invertebrate scores from a subset of 43 sites

Macroinvertebrate community index (MCI)

N Otago, L Clutha











 Table: NOF grading for 96 monitored SoE sites. (95 percentile or max value only)

We are proposing a second stage plan change, which we call the Omnibus plan change. The original intent of the omnibus was to address stock exclusion, farm environment plans, polices for discharge, regionally significant infrastructure, on site farm dairy effluent storage and some other matters. Much of this has been rolled into the Government proposal which means we will simply adopt the final decisions they approve. The remainder will be rolled into a plan change, to be notified next year.

After that, we will be, and have started, a full Water Plan Review to align with the NPSFM. We don’t know exactly what the proposed new Water Plan will look like yet and wont until all the central government direction is known, but we will be targeting solutions to address specific issues in catchments.

As for an earlier question, this question was not responded to on the night, as it was asking about likely future actions from ORC. However, erosion and sediment control (ESC) measures are generally afforestation, farm plans and riparian exclusion. The Pomahaka is a flashy catchment, high flows erode banks quickly, thereby escalating erosion.  Grading of banks and huge riparian margins may help but planting or fencing the very edge of a steep bank is likely to be less effective.  Keeping stock out of water ways is a good start, as is providing stock drinking water in troughs (i.e. beef on hill country).

The key point to note is that ORC has not decided on a plan of action yet however we are very focused on improving management practices across both the rural and urban catchments, to improve water quality.

Feed block refers to the area in which livestock are held. The definition is in section 8.7, on page 79 of the Action for Healthy Waterways document.

The NES does not make an exemption for forestry blocks that are excluded from the ETS. See the types of intensification outlines in Section 8.2, on page 64 of Action for Healthy Waterways document. A change from pasture to forestry would meet the definition of intensification.

Not necessarily. The test relates to the area within a farm in forage cropping, not the stocking rates. Stocking rates (or carrying capacity) are mentioned in the stock exclusion provisions    on page 74 of the Action for Healthy Waterways Document and changing stocking rates might change whether an area needs to be fenced or not.

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