Step 7: Review the plan’s success
Check performance with a ‘self assessment’
Making the NMP work means that it must be followed, not just filed – and this requires checking. ‘Self assessment’ simply means the land manager checking that they or their staff did the things they said they planned to do and also checking that this management had the desired effects. It either confirms that the plans were successful or identifies areas for future improvement.
The self-assessment checklist in the NMP template provides spaces to show:
- whether the plan was carried out as set out,
- to explain any changes made along the way (and the reasons for these),
- whether the land manager achieved the objectives set, and
- management improvements planned for the future to meet any objectives that were not achieved this year.
Monitoring actual performance is an essential part of achieving continuous improvement. It is not enough to plan carefully and follow the plan – land managers and their advisers need to check that the actions really achieved the plan’s objectives and did not cause unexpected harm to the environment, and determine if production goals have been met.
Failing to meet objectives does not necessarily mean that the plan itself failed. It is important, however, to learn any lessons from the results and identify improvements for the future.
Nutrient budgets can be re-done (using the season’s actual nutrient inputs and production) to check the sustainability of fertiliser use, particularly in intensive land use systems. Success in meeting production and environmental objectives should support future nutrient management planning – the property now has some history of suitable management.
If any adverse event was measured or noticed, good records should help identify the actions and risk factors that led to the event and allow better management practices to be adopted for the future. Having completed the monitoring and assessed the plan’s success, the process begins again with planning for the following year.
External audit can verify nutrient management performance
Regional Councils and some industry organisations, or market bodies may ask to see land management records to prove environmentally responsible nutrient management. Completing the NMP and self-assessment provides the evidence to demonstrate sound nutrient management to third parties.