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The Role of Planning in the Climate Change - Discussion for Agriculture

By Anna Bensemann, Senior Planner, Baseline Group Marlborough | Jun 07, 2022

Standing in the field, shifting break fences for stock in the cool crisp autumn morning, feeling the frost round your toes and watching your breath carry through the early sunlit morning, can feel a world away from our Central Government decision makers on climate change matters. Yet these decisions made about how we reduce emissions and how land is managed to reduce risks from climate change, do indeed effect how farms are run on a day-to-day basis.

Everything from the recent budget announcements, to changes in national direction on environmental policy, and increasing amounts of national legislation through to National Environmental Polices and Standards can impact on farming practices. There is potential for the national one-size-fits-all approach to have an impact on the ability, and indeed the cost, for landowners to implement and comply with these new measures.

So, what can landowners do when the rules and regulations established at a national level do not seem to fit the specific on-farm situation? This is where Planners have a crucial role to play. At a regional and local level, Council’s have the ability to give effect to the national legislation in a manner that functions for the specific local areas and needs, within limits. Landowners need to be aware of any proposed changes at local and regional levels and participate in educating planners about the specific local needs for agriculture. This requires both communication and trust and is often established through consultation with community and farming groups, when a council is planning to change or review local planning provisions.

In cases where a landowner finds themselves with a unique situation of not being able to meet the permitted rules and regulations, there is an opportunity to seek a resource consent to breach specific provisions. When applying for a resource consent, each case is considered on its own specific merits and it is the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate the scale of effects on the environment. This is another instance where planners play a crucial role. Advice as to what level of effects will be considered as appropriate is based on an assessment of the local and national policy guidance, what other similar activities have achieved consent and any mitigation measures that might reduce the overall effects - and can mean the difference between success or failure of an application for resource consent.

When it comes to climate change adaptation and management, national regulations around stocking rates, fertiliser use, vegetation clearance, or conversion of land use types between pasture, winter grazing, forestry, etc, are all examples where the one-size-fits-all provisions may not align with your future farming plans. So, when checking on stock in the frosty early morning sunshine this autumn, contemplating your future farm plans, consider your role in ensuring local, regional and indeed national legislation is both fit for purpose and manageable for on-farm needs, by educating planners and decision makers at all levels.

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