Making and following a plan for how you manage intensive winter grazing (IWG) is essential to reducing nutrient and sediment run-off and improving soil productivity.
Under the National Environmental Standards Freshwater (NES-F), intensive winter grazing is grazing livestock (including sheep) on an annual forage crop at any time in the period that begins on 1 May and ends on 30 September of the same year.
An annual forage crop is a crop, other than pasture, that is grazed in the place where it is grown. Annual ryegrass is a pasture, so isn’t considered an annual forage crop.
In 2020, the Government introduced the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F), which set requirements for carrying out certain activities that pose risks to freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. One of those activities is intensive winter grazing.
On 1 November 2022, new rules around winter grazing came into force. Under the NES-F, farms that don’t meet the Permitted Activity rules will require a certified Freshwater Farm Plan or to have applied for resource consent by 1 May 2023.
However, Freshwater Farm Plans won’t be rolled out in Hawkes Bay in the next few years, so if you can’t meet the Permitted Activity rules, you will need resource consent.
Councils and industry have worked together to develop further guidance: Intensive Winter Grazing Rules FAQ (PDF, 2.78MB)
If you're planning to intensively winter graze stock in 2023, you need to:
Whether you're doing intensive winter grazing as a Permitted Activity or applying for resource consent, one thing won't change – you'll need a written plan that clearly identifies the environmental risks associated with the activity, and how you plan to manage and mitigate each of these risks.
Your intensive winter grazing plan will be the key reference you follow over the winter months.
Government and industry organisations have developed several IWG management templates and guidance documents you can use to make your plan:
A Permitted Activity rule outlines certain conditions that need to be met to operate without consent. If your activity meets all of those conditions, you don’t need council authorisation, and are not required to notify us of the activity.
Use these questions to determine if you can operate under the Permitted Activity rules:
If you answered No to ANY of these questions, a resource consent will be required for intensive winter grazing on your farm.
If you answered YES to ALL of these questions, then you can practice intensive winter grazing as a Permitted Activity.
If you plan to conduct intensive winter grazing in 2023 and can’t meet the Permitted Activity rules, you will need to lodge a resource consent application by 1 May 2023. You are not required to have been granted resource consent, only to have lodged an application by this date.
While you won't be granted resource consent immediately, you can still continue with planning and planting for next season and grazing in 2023, as long as you're following your management plan and are consistent with what you’ve applied for.
A consent application deposit will cost $1150. The final cost could be more or less, depending on how complicated the consent is to process. You will be billed extra or refunded depending on the final cost.
Download our intensive winter grazing resource consent application form. Using this form will make the application process as simple, efficient and easy as possible.
An intensive winter grazing management plan is a key feature of the application and a requirement of the consent going forward.
You can apply for any consent duration, but what is granted will depend on your individual situation. Generally, it will be 5 years.
With any new regulation, our first priority is education. For the next year, we will be focusing on supporting farmers to understand the new rules and how they can meet them. There are lots of resources online and staff on the ground to help.
As intensive winter grazing can be a high risk to the environment, we expect that effects are managed even while you are working towards getting your consent. Existing rules in Hawkes Bay restrict stock access to waterways and discharge to water, so we will continue to follow up any incidents relating to these. Each case will be assessed on its merits and compliance action may be taken where necessary.
The compliance team will be interested to see that you have considered good management practices in developing your plan and then that you have reliably implemented your plan. This applies to both the farms that can meet the permitted activity and those that now require a resource consent.
The compliance team undertake a flight during winter to monitor from the air as a scan to see any potential issues, if any are spotted these are followed up on ground with the landowners.
Where Council receives information from the public this is investigated to determine whether a rule breach occurs.
Consents are monitored in line with Council’s priority system, which may mean a proportion of consents are monitored in any one season. The compliance team undertake farm visits preferably with the farmer.
The actual and reasonable costs associated with consent monitoring are recovered from consent holders as provided for in the annual plan.
Here are some ways to protect soil structure and reduce the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways on your farm:
We know these changes can be confusing, and we’re here to help. If you have any questions regarding intensive winter grazing rules and practices, email us at email@example.com with your specific queries, and we’ll get back to you with advice.
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On 30 September 2022, the Ministry for the Environment released an update on Freshwater Farm Plans. The Ministry has indicated that Hawkes Bay will be in the middle of regions to be able to use Freshwater Farm Plans. However, the rule change from 1 November 2022 still applies, so you will need a resource consent if you cannot operate as a Permitted Activity.
We are aware that other regional councils are using a "deemed permit" approach for the 2023 season. However, this approach will not be used in Hawkes Bay as the Ministry for the Environment has indicated that Hawkes Bay will be among the middle regions to have Freshwater Fam Plans rolled out, so this option may be several years away, and deemed permits will not give farmers certainty they need.
An annual forage crop is a crop, other than pasture, that is grazed in the place where it is grown. Annual ryegrass is a pasture, so isn’t considered an annual forage crop. Cereals like oats may or may not be depending on management.
Good winter practice
More information and wintering resources can found below.
If you are worried about winter grazing practices you can call:
This video provides information about the new intensive winter grazing rules.
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