Flaws are found in a tool used for cleaning up waterways and preparing farm plans – but govt is on the case for improvements

Farm leaders are furious – with good cause – after a report by a panel of scientists found fault with the farm nutrient modelling system Overseer.

The panel cited “overarching structural problems” with the system, which has become one of the country’s main farm pollution-management tools, and concluded it could not be confident in Overseer’s ability to estimate nitrogen loss from farms.

Overseer  is a software tool developed in this country to measure farm nutrient dynamics.

It is used by councils all over New Zealand as the basis for granting consents, checking compliance and enforcement against farmers and for estimating on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

The Overseer intellectual property is jointly owned by the Ministry of Primary Industries, the Fertiliser Association of NZ and AgResearch. The intellectual property is exclusively licensed to Overseer Ltd, which is owned by the Fertiliser Association of NZ and AgResearch.

Now that its usefulness for regulatory purposes and as a nutrient management tool has been undermined, there is an urgent need for a more credible tool to be developed – and the Ardern team is on the case.

Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor have acknowledged the science panel’s findings of shortcomings in Overseer nutrient management tool and say –

  • The government will support the development of a next generation Overseer alongside a suite of tools to help in the management and estimation of on-farm nutrient loss
  • Over the next year, Overseer will be supported while a next generation of the tool is developed and/or additional tools are made available
  • A more accurate way to estimate nutrient loss is important for farmers, the environment and brand New Zealand.

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