Demystifying environmental regulations

Knowledge is power

Farming environmental regulations seem to be on everyone’s mind right now. Although we all hope that the changes will soon stop coming, the industry will need to keep working through the issues for a fair while to come. So it’s worth taking the time to get your head around it all, and especially if you’re preparing to sell.

Rules, plans and policies

It can be confusing to understand exactly what rules may apply to farms in different areas – the rules can affect you differently from your neighbour! Firstly, know that both the regional council rules and the new National Environmental Standards now impact the need for farming-related consents. Sometimes the rules double up and it is the ones that are the more onerous that have effect. Secondly, note that even if your farm doesn’t trigger the need for consent, the Regional Plan policies still apply. So you still need to take the time to understand how your farming practices could impact the “receiving environment” – in other words, your farm – and also to be clear on the aspects that you are expected to be managing.

Even if your farm doesn’t trigger the need for consent, the Regional Plan policies still apply. So you still need to take the time to understand how your farming practices could impact the “receiving environment”

Consenting these days

Farming consents are taking longer to process at the moment because of the National Policy Statement (NPS) and associated changes. If a farming consent is required under the Regional Plan (eg ECan’s Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan), the future farm system may also trigger requirement for consent under the new National Environmental Standards. You may experience some delays because regional councils are still working through the best way to process these consents. They also need to meet their NPS obligations back to government. Another delaying factor is that some consents that may be required in the future can’t be applied for yet because the rule doesn’t have effect yet – winter grazing is an obvious example.

What really matters

Remember, we know much more about how our farming practice impacts fresh water quality and the wider environment now, compared to even 10 years ago. It may not feel this way yet, but in theory, you should have no reason to fear triggering the need for consent on a property in the future, as long as you are prepared to do the right thing by the environment. And the consenting process will settle down again….

You should have no reason to fear triggering the need for consent on a property in the future, as long as you are prepared to do the right thing by the environment. And the consenting process will settle down again...

In the meantime, the best way to navigate this environment successfully is to get expert advice that is specific to your property. Agri Magic is one expert agency that is available to help and of course there are others – your Bayleys contact will be a wealth of knowledge about your location and your needs, and the supports available.

Selling in this environment

We used to recommend that clients have farming consents in place before marketing their properties, to ensure a smoother deal. However, with the current delays in the consenting process, it’s time for a different strategy… Knowledge is power. Gather and provide everything that the purchaser will need to carry out their own due diligence. Get clarity over how the rules may apply for different future farm systems on your property, and hand over as much specific information as you can. This will mean that the purchaser is aware of the rules at play for your property, so that they can identify the investment required to ensure that their future farm operations work to maintain or enhance water quality and biodiversity. You will then need to step back and allow the purchaser extra time to work through these matters. Excellent sales are still going through in this changing regulatory environment. Do your homework, enable the buyer to do theirs, and the results will be to everyone’s benefit.

By Charlotte Glass, Director and founder of Agri Magic Ltd

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