Ministers receive Southland Advisory Group report on intensive winter grazing

Agriculture Environment

Ministers David Parker and Damien O’Connor are considering a report and recommendations from the Southland Advisory Group on intensive winter grazing, released today.

New intensive winter grazing regulations come into force in May 2021 as part of the Essential Freshwater package. That package was delivered to stop further degradation of waterways, make material improvement in freshwater quality within five years, and restore waterways to health within a generation.

“Intensive winter grazing is a high risk activity with regards to freshwater health,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“In Southland, intensive winter grazing is widely used because of low rates of winter pasture growth and non-draining soils.

“There has also been a sixfold increase in cow numbers and a large increase in winter cropping area over the past 20 years that has had a significant impact on the quality of our waterways.”

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said while most farmers had moved to improve their wintering practices, the reality is that the increase has had a significant impact.

“Stricter scrutiny of this practice is required to reduce harm and manage increasing risk.”

The Southland Advisory Group was established in September following a meeting with the Ministers and was asked to look at the implementation of the intensive winter grazing rules that are part of the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater 2020.

“We thank the Group for working together to recommend ways to implement the new intensive winter grazing rules and we acknowledge the significant effort to produce the report and recommendations,” David Parker said.

“We will look at the implementation challenges described, and consider options to address them.

“The health of our environment will be at the centre of any decisions made. The Group’s report puts forward a range of options they say will lead to better environmental outcomes.

“Southland estuaries have become increasingly clogged with sediment and this needs to be addressed.

“So any changes would need to sit alongside increased monitoring and reporting requirements to ensure there are measurable improvements.”

Damien O’Connor said: “We recognise that practice change does not happen overnight, and that winter grazing is an important component of many current systems, in Southland and elsewhere across the country.

“However, I am confident that freshwater farm plans will assist farmers in identifying on-going improvements which will provide increasing environmental benefits over time.”