Despite popular opinion among Waikato farmers, obtaining a resource consent under the land use rule changes is possible, Chris McLay writes:
Changing land use has been a frequent topic in the media lately.
Unlike some of the other rules in the Healthy Rivers plan change 1, the land use change rule has had an immediate impact on landowners.
It requires landowners to apply for a resource consent when they want to intensify activities on their property.
The simple truth is that what we do on the land impacts water quality, and more intense land uses have a greater impact on water quality.
While a resource consent is required, an assumption has been made by the farming community that the non-complying status means it's impossible to get a consent for land use change.
That simply isn't true. The Waikato Regional Council has already approved two applications.
They were for a farm in the Waipā district which was granted because the landowners were able to meet the requirements set out in the proposed plan change.
Each application is different, but the party could demonstrate that changing their land use would reduce contaminant loss on their farm.
Actions outlined in their farm environment plan clearly showed how they would mitigate water quality impacts and not just hold, but reduce their contaminant loss.
The land use change rule was put into effect to ensure all the good work that would be done in farm environment plans throughout the catchment wouldn't be undone by intensified land use, and both of these applications were able to clearly show that this would not be the case.
In addition to the two consent applications that have been approved, there are a few more applications being processed.
There have also been some misconceptions that any and all changes on a property would need consent. It is acknowledged that the rule is ambiguous in some respects and we anticipate it will be clarified though the upcoming hearing process.
But in the meantime we are endeavouring to implement the rule in a common-sense, practical way.
Applications need to include Overseer files to show nitrogen leaching on a farm and a farm environment plan that highlights the actions that will be taken to manage contaminants and water quality.
If you're considering changing the way you use your land, the best thing to do is to talk with a rural professional or call the council to work through the specifics of your situation. It's certainly not impossible, but we need to ensure that land use changes don't undo the good work done by farmers in the catchment.
- Chris McLay is the director of resource uses at the Waikato Regional Council.