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Farm environment plans

What is a Farm Environment Plan (FEP)?

Farm Environment Plans are a tried and tested way for farmers to organise their thinking about how to manage the environmental risks on their farm. They are a key part of the proposed plan change in order to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria entering our waterways. A FEP is tailored to each individual farm, recognising that each farming system and farm landscape is different.

To complete a FEP, you will need to identify your current risks, develop a plan of actions to reduce these risks and set timelines to implement the plan. Under the proposed plan, FEPs can be submitted to council for a resource consent, or be developed under a certified industry scheme, depending on individual circumstances.

Due dates for FEPs vary based on your sub-catchment and Priority 1 sub-catchment FEPs are due in 2022. Not sure which sub-catchment you’re in? Use our Find My Farm tool.

Who will need a Farm Environment Plan?

All commercial vegetable growers and most other farmers farming over 20ha will have to prepare a FEP. Properties with small and low intensity farming activities or with low risk factors for water quality won’t need a FEP. For details of properties that won’t need a FEP, see Rule 1 and Rule 2 in the proposed rules.

What's in a Farm Environment Plan?

A FEP includes three key parts:

  • Risks on farm – current and potential losses of the four key contaminants, nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria
  • Planned mitigations – description of the actions you’ll take to address the risks on-farm
  • Timelines – provide a timeline for when actions will be completed.

While FEPs are tailored to each individual farm, there are minimum standards and sub-catchment targets that will need to be addressed in your FEP. Minimum standards include stock exclusion, setbacks and actions associated with holding or reducing nitrogen discharge levels. If your nitrogen discharges are above the 75th percentile for your Freshwater Management Unit (FMU), you will need to include mitigations that will reduce nitrogen leaching.

While not mandatory, your FEP can also include steps to enhance your farm and protect local plants and animals.

Who puts together a Farm Environment Plan?

You can put together a FEP yourself or have a Certified Farm Environment Planner (CFEP) prepare it for you. Preparing a FEP yourself is a good way to keep costs at a minimum, however, you will still need a CFEP to approve the plan for you and submit it to council. Over the next few years, council will run multiple workshops in each sub-catchment to help you understand how to fill out and complete a FEP. There will also be information about how to find a CFEP in the coming months.

If you are part of a Certified Industry Scheme, your FEP will be prepared with your industry partner.

Who is a CFEP and how do I find one?

A CFEP is a certified agriculture professional that reviews and approves FEPs. CFEPs have experience in different agricultural fields and advanced training in nutrient, sediment and erosion management. Council is currently in the process of identifying and training CFEPs. Once CFEPs are available, there will be information on the website including their background and contact details. This information is expected to be available in mid-2018, so be sure to check back at a later date.

When will properties need to have a Farm Environment Plan?

The proposed plan change orders areas of the catchment in terms of the priority for cleaning up the waterways. This is based on the information we have about water quality in these areas now, and where we need to get to within the next 80 years. You can find your priority area by using the Find My Farm tool.

Dates that properties need to have a Farm Environment Plan
Priority 1 sub-catchments 1 March 2022
Priority 2 sub-catchments  1 March 2025
Priority 3 sub-catchments 1 July 2026


Will I still need a Farm Plan if I am already operating at best practice and have done all the things that are expected in the plan change?

Yes, if you are a commercial vegetable grower (of any size) or a farmer farming over 20ha, you will most likely need to complete a FEP. If you are already operating at best practice you will have fewer risks to identify and fewer actions to complete in your plan. It’s also important to remember that a FEP is a living document and may need to be changed if changes are needed on farm; this could include an extreme weather event, an earthquake or a change to the farm system, such as increased cultivation.

If I already have a Sustainable Milk Plan will I still need a Farm Environment Plan?

Yes. Some requirements for FEPs are not in existing Sustainable Milk Plans. You can use information from your Sustainable Milk Plan to develop your FEP.

If I am leasing a property will I responsible for preparing the Farm Environment Plan?

This depends on your lease agreement. Some agreements say the owner is responsible, while others say the lessee is responsible. If you are leasing a property, it’s important to work with the property owner to identify and put in writing what you will be responsible for. If you are looking to lease a property in the Waikato or Waipā River catchments, you may want to clarify this in your lease agreement.

How much will a Farm Environment Plan cost?

The cost of a FEP will depend on a number of different factors such as the size and complexity of the farm system and landscape. One way to minimise costs is to prepare most of the FEP yourself and then have a CFEP approve the FEP. Council and industry partners will hold workshops to help you complete a FEP.

There will also be costs associated with the actions required in your FEP to manage the four contaminants on your farm. Those who have already completed work to manage risks associated with the four contaminants will have less to do. 

This information has been provided based on Waikato Regional Council’s interpretation of the proposed plan. The proposed plan is subject to change through the hearings process.