Implementing Farm Environment Plans, Audits and Practices in Canterbury

 - the journey so far

This talk will take you through the regulatory model for improving the environmental footprint of approximately 3000 high risk farms in Canterbury. The model, which was put in place through a new regional plan in 2014, focusses on the use of Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) that are then audited by Certified Auditors. Our presentation will concentrate on the implementation of the model and the lessons learnt. FEPs are mandated in Canterbury through the requirement for an individual Farming Land Use consent (FLU), or through an irrigation scheme Discharge Permit. These are then audited individually, or via Audited Self-Management programmes developed by Irrigation Schemes as required by their Discharge Permits for their shareholders. Each farmer, or irrigation scheme, has a consented nitrogen load. Each FEP is required to have several Objectives and Targets to meet the Good Management Practice (GMP) standards.  FEPs and their Audits try to focus on farm practices, with a view to driving improvements and achieving compliance with GMP and the farm’s (or scheme’s) consented Nitrogen Loss Limit. While the vision was relatively simple, the resulting consents have been complex to process and administer. This is primarily because the heavy reliance on Overseer® to demonstrate compliance with Nitrogen Loss Limit has diverted attention away from on-farm practices. Extra challenges have resulted from the loss of confidence in the use of Overseer® as a regulatory tool. The second part of this talk will focus on our successful FEP Audit programme. This FEP audit programme has been enabled through a collaborative approach with a strong Audited Self-Management (AMS) component delivered largely by irrigation schemes and Certified FEP Auditors. Despite the challenges, there is evidence that the programme has led to much greater environmental awareness amongst farmers with an improvement in FEP Audit grades over time. 


8th December 2022


Richard Purdon
Principal Consent Panner, Environment Canterbury


Richard has 21 years of experience working at the sharp end of the RMA- that is Compliance and Consents. Currently a Principal and an RMA Decision Maker in the Consents Planning Team at Environment Canterbury, Richard presently oversees some of the more contentious consent applications in the region. Before his present role, he was heavily involved with implementing the farm regulations that came through the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan in 2014. Richard has developed a great deal of experience in understanding how to (and how not to) implement complex environmental regulation and will look to discuss his experience on this in the context of the development of consents to farm and Farm Environment Plans in his talk with his colleague Alastair Rutherford.


Alistair Rutherford
Principal Implementation Advisor- Farming Programme and Implementation, Environment Canterbury


Alastair has been involved in understanding and finding solutions to farming’s impact on the natural environment for over 25 years.  Before emigrating to New Zealand from the UK he worked for a range of farming and farm environmental organisations including central government, statutory agencies and NGOs.  Alastair became involved with Canterbury approach to land and water planning in 2015 when he joined Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) to lead the design and implementation of AIC’s Farm Environment Plan (FEP) and FEP Auditing programme as an Environment Canterbury approved Audited Self -Management irrigation scheme. In 2019 Alastair took up a position within Environment Canterbury and now works as Principle Land Management Adviser (Farm Plans) within the Farming Team.  His current responsibilities include overseeing the delivery of about 3000 audited FEPs across Canterbury and helping the organisation understand and prepare for the introduction of a national programme of Freshwater Farm Plans (FW-FPs) as part of the government’s Essential Freshwater regulatory package.  A smooth transition from FEPs to FW-FPs in a way that builds on and further develops the farm planning regulatory approach in Canterbury is his top priority for the years ahead.  Alastair has considerable experience of working with farmers to deliver changes in farm practices to reduce the impact of the industry on water quality and will look to share some insights his colleague Richard Purdon.