Time to Fence Those Waterways!

Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament on 26 November 2015. The submission process is well underway with the Select Committee receiving submissions until Monday, 14 March 2016.

The Bill’s main purpose is ‘to create a Resource Management system that achieves the sustainable management of natural and physical resources in an efficient and equitable way.’ In the last election the current government was very clear in its desire to make changes to the Resource Management Act, and related legislation, to try to speed up and simplify Resource Management Act processes.

While much of the Bill is focused on trying to take out some of the uncertainty, time and cost of the Resource Management Act process, included with these broader aims is the following section 103(7):

"(hn) prescribing measures for the purposes of excluding stock from water bodies, estuaries and coastal lakes and lagoons, including regulations that –

(i) apply generally in relation to stock or to specified kinds of stock (for example, dairy cattle);

(ii) apply generally in relation to water bodies, estuaries and coastal lakes and lagoons or to specified kinds of water bodies, estuaries and coastal lakes and lagoons:-

(iii) apply different measures to different kinds of stock or to different kinds or water bodies, estuaries, and coastal lakes and lagoons;

(iv) prescribe technical requirements for the purposes of the regulations, (for example, the minimum height and specifications with which any required means of exclusion must comply, such as requirements for fencing or riparian planting);

(ho) Prescribing infringement offences for the contravention of, or non-compliance with, any regulations made under the preceding paragraph."

Sub sections (hn) and (ho) are additions to the regulation making a power of s360 of the Resource Management Act 1991. They give the government specific authority to make regulations that exclude stock from water bodies and also to prescribe offences for the contravention of those regulations.

Excluding dairy cattle

The government has publicly signalled its intention to introduce a national regulation to exclude dairy cattle from waterways by July 2017. If the Bill is enacted, the regulations above would give the government the power to do that. The regulations give the power to make different regulations in relation to different kinds of stock, or types of water bodies. They also go so far as giving the government the power to prescribe technical requirements of any means of exclusion such as fencing.

Interestingly enough, the Land and Water Forum produced its fourth report also in November last year. This report includes paragraph 197 which contains the following statement: "The Forum view is that stock exclusion requirements should vary according to the type of livestock being farmed and the terrain. This balances environmental imperatives with the costs and impracticalities of excluding stock from waterways in different farming contexts."

The days of voluntary accords and different approaches from different local authorities may well be over. The government’s intention is clear and it is giving itself the power to make rules to enforce its intention.

However the good news is the acceptance by both the government and the Land and Water Forum that different types of farming, terrain, and stock will mean different rules for specific situations. It seems the costs and practicality of exclusion are factors that will be taken into account when making regulations.

Posted: Thu 31 Mar 2016

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