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Overseer review

A Government-commissioned panel of scientists have reviewed the nitrogen modelling tool Overseer, and have found limitations.

This page will help you find out more information about the review and how it will impact the Tukituki community and our consent process.

Overseer background

It is widely accepted that the water quality of many New Zealand rivers is degraded, and changes need to be made.

One of the main causes of poor water quality is excessive nitrogen.

Discharges of nutrients, including nitrogen, are managed through the use of the tool, Overseer.

Overseer helps estimate nitrogen loss on a farm and in so doing can help with the management of nutrient loss.

We, alongside other regional councils, have used Overseer to gather modelled output data on different farm systems via this online interface.

We are required to use Overseer as a regulatory tool in our operative Tukituki Plan to understand nutrient loss on farms and at a catchment level.

Industry groups have for some time debated the use of Overseer as a tool for regional council’s planning and consent process.

Government review

In late 2018, the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries commissioned a review of Overseer by a Science Advisory Panel. Eight independent experts were appointed to the panel.

The panel considered Overseer’s ability to estimate nitrogen loss across a range of conditions found in New Zealand.

The panel concluded that they wouldn’t have confidence in Overseer to estimate the volume of nutrient loss and whether nitrogen was being increased or reduced as a result of on-farm actions

The Government is committed to test, upgrade or supplement Overseer over the next 12 months and will support the use of Overseer over this time to enable regulatory requirements to be met.

You can access the full report here

You can access Government's response here

Overseer key contacts

If you want to talk to our staff about your consent, call Amelia Longley - 027 495 5946.

For general information about Overseer, the Tukituki operative plan call:

Principal Advisor Policy Implementation Louise McPhail - 027 200 7308

Senior Regulatory Advisor Kate Proctor - 027 201 9698

Our message to landowners

We are committed to working in partnership with the farming community as we look at what the results of the review and Government response mean for our region.

We will need to take some time to consider the report and determine what this will mean for the ongoing implementation of the operative Tukituki Catchment Plan.

When we are in a position to provide more clarity around how we assess consents, we will hold community meetings with affected landowners.

GM Policy and Regulation Katrina Brunton

What this means for the Tukituki community

For farmers, this doesn’t change things in the short term for the consent process.

Farmers have been implementing good management practices and we expect that to continue.

Consents and farm plans still need to be submitted, and Overseer must still be used to collect farm data.

We are assesing the review to detemine what this means in terms of the ongoing implementation of the operative Tukituki Catchment Plan.

We will be considering evidence as well as Nitrogen loss per hectare when assessing consent applications.

Frequently asked questions

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It is a NZ-developed software tool that estimated nutrient loss from farms using farmer input data and topograhy, soil and climate data.

Farmers and land managers use it to suport efficient financial and environmental decision making.

Overseer has been the best available tool to use to estimate and inform management of nitrogen loss from farms. Overseer was included in the Tukituki Plan when it became legally operative in 2015.

Yes. It’s still business as usual. Landowners still need to submit consents.

Yes. We will engage with with landowners in these sub-catchments once we have reviewed our Tukituki Procedural Guidelines.

Yes. It’s a legal requirement in the Tukituki Catchment Plan that FEMPS must be updated every three years with the first update due on 31 May 2021.

You will need to update your nutrient budget using Overser. If you have not yet engaged a provider, we recommend you do this.

A list of FEMP providers can be found here.

We will need to review the Tukituki Procedural Guidelines along with primary industry partners to decide how we will process consents.

We will considering evidence as well as Nitrogen loss per hectare when assesing consent applications.

Yes. Overseer is still a usable tool and contains other helpful information for landowners and the Council outside of nitrogen loss per hectare.

The Tukituki Plan requires the use of Overseer when updating a FEMP or submitting a consent application for production land use.

Councils will continue to require land owners to record the same information needed for an Overseer nutrient budget, even if Overseer is not used in the future.

Under the Tukituki Catchment Plan, some landowners who live in the Tukituki catchment need to submit a land use consent (see Tukituki land use consents above).

Overseer is a key part of that consenting process to assess nitrogen loss on farms.

Between February 2021, and February 2022, about 750 consent applications using Overseer are required to be submitted to the council.

We also use Overseer in dairy discharge consents and their monitoring.

Overseer is referenced in the proposed TANK plan, which has been heard and a decision is due.

The Government’s response to the Panel’s findings will be to put in place one or more of the following options:

creation of a new risk index tool, potentially using elements of Overseer (including the user interface); and

redevelopment of Overseer to address the issues raised by the Review Panel and ensure that it is fit for purpose as a tool to use in appropriate regulatory settings; and/or

greater use of controls on practices and inputs to manage nitrogen loss (including through amendment to the NES-F); and/or

a completely new approach to understanding and managing diffuse nutrient loss risk. This might include, for example;

(i)    near real-time monitoring of water quality at the local scale

(ii)   a tool that provides detailed understanding of nutrient loss risk based on the characteristics of land

(iii)  a new nutrient loss model.

The options recognise that Overseer currently plays many roles and a wider suite of tools may be necessary to adequately fill all those future needs.






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