Where is the coalition government at with changes to environmental regulations?

Currently there is a lot of uncertainty over what the new coalition government will change in current environmental policy. This is what we know so far;

Resource Management Act

The new government repealed the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts, which were intended to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA).  The new government has stated it intends to begin work on a longer-term programme to repeal the RMA, however details have not been announced.

Freshwater Management

In December 2023 the Government announced it will replace the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FW).  It is expected this process will take 18-24 months. They have given Councils a three-year extension, from 2024 to 2027, to release regional freshwater plans implementing the NPS-FW and Te Mana o te Wai.  This allows Councils time to implement changes to the NPS-FW the new government intends to make.  Many councils are  indicating they will proceed with their current plans while others will use the extension. Waikato Regional Council is continuing to push on with Plan Change 1. At present this remains in the Environment Court.

In the interim the government intends to either remove Te Mana o te Wai or rebalance it to ‘better reflect the interests of all water users” this year.  Te Mana o te Wai, meaning the mana of the water, was introduced in 2020 allowing Councils when deciding on a matter relevant to freshwater, such as consents and developing freshwater management plans, to prioritise:

  • first, the health and wellbeing of water bodies and freshwater ecosystems
  • second, the health needs for people, such as drinking water
  • third, the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, now and in future.

The National-NZ First agreement also states they will “replace the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater to better reflect the interests of all water users”. This is where regulations such as nitrogen reporting, intensive winter grazing and wetland management sit.  No further details have been released.

Freshwater Farm Plans

As the Resource Management Act remains in place so does legislation that falls within it.  This includes Freshwater Farm Plans, so they are still a requirement. However, Waikato Regional Council is waiting for further clarification from the new government on intended changes as both coalition agreements contain commitments to improve Farm Environment Plans so they are more cost-effective and pragmatic for farmers.

Significant Natural Areas

Last week the coalition government announced it is suspending councils’ requirements to comply with significant natural area provisions in the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity for three years, while they work on replacing the RMA.

Greenhouse Gases

Statements in the coalition agreements relating to greenhouse gas policy and agriculture include:

  • maintaining a split-gas approach to methane and carbon dioxide through to 2050 and reviewing the methane science and targets this year for consistency with no additional warming from agricultural methane emissions.
  • Incentivising the uptake of emissions reduction mitigations, such as low methane genetics and low methane-producing animal feed
  • Enabling farmers to offset sequestration against their on-farm emissions.

So far, there have been no changes to current compliance requirements, so it is a wait and see.
We’ll keep you updated on any developments in this area. 

Written by Olivia Motion.

Olivia Motion

Agri-compliance Team Lead

P: 0800 866 191
E: oliviam@cooperaitken.co.nz 
M: 021 041 8173

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