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Resource Management Amendment Act 2020 – New Part 9A (Certified Freshwater Farm Plans)

The new Part 9A of the Act puts in place new regulation-making powers for Freshwater Farm Plans (FFPs).  The purpose of Part 9A is to “… better control the adverse effects of farming on freshwater and freshwater ecosystems within specified districts, regions, or parts of New Zealand through the use of certified freshwater farm plans”.

Part 9A will apply to those parts of New Zealand that are to be specified by the Minister for the Environment by Order in Council, after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture.

The broad contents of FFPs are set out in 217F of the Act, including to identify adverse effects of farm activities on freshwater/freshwater ecosystems and to specify “clear and measurable” requirements to avoid, remedy and mitigate such effects.  Regulations may prescribe specific requirements, and outcomes, that must be achieved by FFPs.

FFPs must be certified and audited for compliance.  Regional Councils are to appoint certifiers and auditors using the criteria that will be specified in regulations (s217K).

The “farm operator” has an obligation to prepare the FFP, ensure it is certified, complied with and audited.

“Farm operator” is defined as “the person with ultimate responsibility for the operation of a farm”.

As well as appointing certifiers and auditors, regional councils have monitoring, enforcement and record-keeping functions (for FFP’s).

Regulations may prescribe infringement offences relating to FFP’s.

A FEP may contain a requirement that is not contained in, or is more stringent to, a “specified instrument” (meaning designation, NES, NPS, resource consent, rule in a plan or WCO).  If the requirement relates to an activity carried out on the farm, the requirement can prevail over a “specified instrument”.  However, if the “specified instrument” is more stringent, the instrument prevails.

There are thresholds below which a farm will be exempt from requiring a FFP – such as arable or pastoral land use less than 20 hectares, and horticulture land use less than 5 ha.  These land uses are defined in Part 9A and regulations may prescribe further thresholds.