Farming practices have recently come under scrutiny in Day v Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council  NZEnvC 182. This case arose as a result of the Horizon One Plan which put in place regimes regulating the leaching of nutrients into waterways. In particular, the notified version of the Horizon One Plan requires all dairy, intensive sheep and beef farming, cropping and commercial vegetable growing to be within leaching limits. In order to exceed these standards, farmers are required to obtain a resource consent.
The increasingly stringent limits are to be rolled out over the next 20 years. The limits vary according to the type of land as classified using the Land Use Capability system which takes into account soil type, geology, slope and vegetation cover. This aims to discourage farmers from converting steep or porous land into intensive dairying which causes higher rates of nitrogen leaching than other forms of farming.
In the Environment Court the One Plan was strongly opposed with farmers claiming that the proposed leaching limits were too severe, having the effect of "putting farmers out of business". The Court however found in favour of the leaching limits, noting that failure "to take available and appropriate steps" to prevent the decline in water quality would be "inexcusable".
Federated Farmers has since appealed this decision to the High Court on the grounds that the Court failed to properly consider the social and economic implications of imposing the leaching limits.
With the Land and Water Forum due to report to the Government shortly with recommendations on how to achieve and manage limits for water quality, the High Court proceedings will be of interest to many sectors.