Formerly Pact Consulting Limited

The impact of possible changes to nitrogen loss regulations on the financial viability of dairy farms in the Upper Manawatū River catchment


The Manawatū-Wanganui Regional Council regional plan (the One Plan) regulates the use of natural resources in the Region and includes a table of allowable nitrogen leaching maxima reflecting the natural capital of soils in the Region and based on Overseer® results from 2007. Dairy farms applying for controlled consents for intensive land-use activities in the Region need to comply with these maxima. However, the maxima in the Table have not been adjusted as new versions of Overseer® have been introduced since the table was produced.

This study compares the impact on representative dairy farms of complying with the original figures in the table with results from a revised table that takes into account more recent versions of Overseer®. Cluster analysis was used to select five representative farms in the Tararua District and their farm systems  were modified  to comply with both the original  and the revised table.

The current version of Overseer® was used to model the farm outputs based on  the original table of leaching maxima.Compared with the baseline farm results, nitrogen losses were reduced by over 50% and milk production by 40%. When the same comparison was undertaken with the table of revised maxima, the nitrogen losses were expected to reduce by almost 40% and milk production by 5%. Applying the original nitrogen leaching maxima to the five representative farms resulted in about two thirds of farms within the catchment  being unable to pay the interest on their debts. The revised nitrogen leaching maxima reduced this to <10%.

The nitrogen leaching maxima in the One Plan should be revised to: better reflect the changes in the science underpinning current versions of Overseer®;  achieve the nitrogen reduction targets in the region; and minimise the impact of the One Plan policies and rules on the financial viability of existing dairy farms.

Terry G. Parminter, Scott D. Ridsdale, Stefan D. Bryant, Ian G. McNab, Kate A. Proctor, Lynette A. Baish: The impact of possible changes to nitrogen loss regulations on the financial viability of dairy farms in the Upper Manawatū River catchment. Final draft of paper presented at the 2019 conference of the New Zealand Grasslands Society.

Greenhouse Gases: reductions being achieved on Manawatu dairy farms


In 2018, the Manawatu Wanganui Regional Council (Horizons) began examining natural resource management in the region in preparation for a plan review. This includes the information provided by dairy farmers as part of their land-use consent applications. In this paper the authors describe the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions being achieved by dairy farmers in the Tararua District as a co-benefit from reducing nitrogen losses to water.

The sample of 126 dairy farms came from a relatively high rainfall area (1000-2000mm/yr) and mixed soil types (mostly brown and allophanic soils). In 2012-13, the annual losses of nitrogen to water averaged 40 kgN/ha (ranging from 24-60 kgN/ha). The annual GHG emissions averaged 11.2 t/ha (ranging from 10-15 t/ha). There was a very poor relationship between individual farm nitrogen losses to water and their GHG emissions (R2 <0.1).

To model the effect of management practices that reduce nitrogen losses to water, the farms were placed into five groups using cluster analysis. Five clusters of farms were modelled in Overseer®, to represent all the dairy farms in the catchment. Management mitigations were introduced sequentially to each cluster farm and the nitrogen losses to water calculated over an expected 20 year timeframe.

When the changes in GHG emissions were compared with the expected reductions in nitrogen losses, a possible co-benefit became apparent. Across the representative dairy farms in the catchment, after introducing the management mitigations for improving water quality, the GHG percentage reductions were estimated to be around 64% of the percentage reductions in nitrogen losses to water.

From these results, it appears likely that dairy farmers in the Tararua District will achieve significant reductions in GHG emissions from the adoption of management practices designed to reduce nitrate losses to water.

Terry Parminter, Kate Proctor, Tom Bowen, Greenhouse Gases: Reductions being achieved on Manawatu dairy farms. Paper presented to 2018 conference of New Zealand Agriculture and Resource Economics Society.

Designing policy interventions to change environmental behaviours: theory and practice



Policy interventions are usually intended to result in changes in human behaviour to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes.  So, it is helpful for policy makers to have access to descriptions of human behaviour and theories of change that can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of natural resource policy.  This paper reviews some of the available approaches that have been developed from economic, sociological and psychological principles.

In the paper, frameworks and models explaining human behaviour are described separately from those that can be used to understand the processes of behaviour change.  The frameworks consider the conscious and subconscious relationships between attitudes and behaviour as well as the contextual issues involved in societal change.  Making use of these principles, a 7E Policy Package model that integrates information about behaviours and behaviour change is presented that can be used to provide a balanced mix of coercive and non-coercive policy measures.


Impacts of Water Policies on New Zealand Livestock Agriculture and the Ruamāhanga Catchment



New Zealand communities are seeking improved water quality. Applying New Zealand’s legislative framework, policy decisions to achieve these improvements must take account of a range of factors, including the sources of contaminants, and the economic implications of policy changes for resource users such as farmers. This paper outlines key components of agricultural information being used to underpin policy decision-making in the Ruamāhanga River Catchment, and evaluates the economic impacts on farming of one potential policy scenario to achieve improved water quality.

Twelve representative farms are used in the evaluation. Based on this, 24% of the nitrogen load entering the river from livestock agriculture is from dairying, 40% from sheep and beef breeding farms, and 36% from sheep and beef finishing farms. Reducing the nitrogen load in the river from the current levels of 0.64 to 0.53mg/L, requires livestock farmers in the catchment to reduce nitrogen discharges by an estimated 700T of nitrogen per year. Such a water quality target can be achieved if improved farm management practices are adopted, and provided that other human-induced sources of contaminant are also reduced. The costs of the farm management changes required could reduce their contribution to the district GDP by over 10%.


TG Parminter, 2017. Impacts of water policies on New Zealand livestock agriculture and the Ruamāhanga Catchment, Proceedings of the 21st International Farm Management Congress, vol 1, article 24.

Dairying the Choice Career – the DairyNZ ‘People Lift’ Project


People are interested in becoming part of the New Zealand dairy industry by the opportunities to build their own business, work with livestock and be in the outdoors. Making this vision a reality for people on farms and for new entrants to the industry is a shared responsibility for everybody and particularly for sharemilkers and farm owners. This has required an industry focus on people management, human relations and health and safety. In 2015, a two year establishment project was begun by DairyNZ to build increased capability in work place compliance, team leadership and career development amongst on-farm teams.

The project (called People Lift) involved farm teams from 24 farms as well as certified People Management Consultants and DairyNZ extension staff. The strategic design integrated industry-good with paid consultancy and extension events with one-on-one farmer contact.  Farmers and farm staff engaged in a programme of on-farm visits, regional workshops and developing planning tools. 

The People Lift programme has been externally evaluated each year using mixed methods combining quantitative questionnaires (e.g. the Gallup survey) and narratives from the Most Significant Change method. Each year’s results have been analysed using NVivo® before being reviewed by all the project participants. One participant said, ”We are doing the project because we want to make people want to farm. We want this to be their career by choice and not by default … As an employer, I value their ideas and opinions. It’s all about giving them a voice …” Generally, the responses were positive although one farmer left the programme because they felt “that there had been a lack of progress”.

As the establishment phase of the People Lift is completed in 2017, the People Management Consultants are preparing to continue its results with new groups of farmers. Their challenges are to address the wide range of expectations amongst sharemilkers and farmers about the types of skills required for working with people, and how they can make their programmes and planning tools accessible to busy farming teams.

Terry Parminter, John Greer & Lee Astridge, 2018. Fostering change in people management – the DairyNZ ‘People Lift’ Project. Rural Extension and Innovative Systems Journal, vol 14, no. 1, p161-166.