The Otago Regional Council is encouraging farmers to apply – using a provided winter grazing application and a management plan template - for the intensive winter grazing areas they want to use in the years ahead, as part of their planned farming cycles.
“These rules for intensive winter grazing were introduced as part of the wider Essential Freshwater package and ORC is responsible for implementing them,” says ORC’s Manager Consents Joanna Gilroy.
“We’re looking to do this in a way which is practical for farmers, but also recognises the environmental risks of some farming activities and encourages farmers to think about these risks,” she says.
Intensive Winter Grazing management plan
As part of applying for a consent, an Intensive Winter Grazing management plan will be required. These management plans will be a component of any future freshwater farm plan so any plan developed for the consent process will be helpful for farmers when beginning the freshwater farm plan journey in the future.
The application for consent should cover multiple years, with any consents then granted for a specific duration.
“In most instances we are encouraging farmers to apply for consent for the next 3-5 years. Farmers will then need to update their management plan annually and tell us where they have grazed in the previous year, and where they plan to graze next season,” she says.
People can use existing grazing templates, but ORC have prepared a template for use that people can access.
While farmers need to apply for the paddocks they’re likely to graze over the next several years, actual paddock selection and the day to day operation of their property is still in the farmer’s control.
“We appreciate that the operation of a farm can be fluid and the process we have developed provides for farmers to change their plan in response to the many factors which can influence day to day management,” Ms Gilroy says.
Compliance with the Intensive Winter Grazing management plan
ORC’s Compliance Manager Tami Sargeant says there will be some monitoring of farms.
“Once a consent has been issued, the compliance team will monitor the winter grazing practices to check that farmers are complying with any consent conditions.”
Forms available online or by post
There are certain things an application for consent needs to include, but the form has been designed to capture these. The form is online in a pdf and can be emailed into ORC’s firstname.lastname@example.org or printed off and posted in.
An online form, which will also include being able to pay online, will be available in September.
Farmers will need to pay a deposit of $1900 to cover the cost of processing and securing the consent, and may also have to pay a compliance monitoring fee.
Ms Gilroy notes farmers can still undertake the activity without consent, if they can meet the permitted criteria in the regulations.
If people are unsure if they need consent or not, they are encouraged to contact ORC’s consent enquiries team and the Council’s catchment advisors are also available to provide good management practice-based advice.
Ms Gilroy says ORC has led the work with other regional council’s to develop the application form nationally and have sought feedback from key stakeholders.
While some Councils do have different regional rules relating to intensive winter grazing, it was important to work as a sector to try and be as consistent as possible.
Each Council will be creating their own intensive winter grazing implementation plan and farmers are encouraged to make contact with their Council if they have any questions.
“For farmers in Otago we’re happy to help explain the forms, come out on site and come to community sessions to help with the application process,” she says.
Ms Gilroy is confident the ORC consents team has the skills and capacity to process the applications efficiently.
“We know we need to be cost efficient and timely, but we’re also being pragmatic and balancing supporting farmers through the process, while addressing the potential environmental effects of grazing,” she says.
Forms and further information
Good practice information including paddock plan and intensive winter grazing plan
New water rules winter grazing information including fact sheet
Ready to apply for a consent with pdf for intensive winter grazing plan and applications form