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Tokomairiro Forum To Address Catchment Water Quality Issues

MEDIA RELEASE


December 5, 2012

Tokomairiro Forum To Address Catchment Water Quality Issues

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) has organised a public forum to help farmers in the Tokomairiro address and resolve serious water quality issues in the catchment.

The council has invited all local farm owners and managers to the forum, which is being held at Milton’s White Horse Inn on Thursday December 13 from 7pm to 9pm.

Other interested members of the public are welcome to attend.

The decision to host the forum follows the release of a major ORC State of the Environment study of water quality and ecosystem health in the catchment.

The seven-month study has revealed that water quality has deteriorated markedly in recent years, with the entire catchment exceeding guidelines for bacteria, sediments, and nutrients.

The monitoring carried out by the council between 2001 and 2006 led to the Tokomairiro River at the west branch bridge being classified as having good water quality.

However, water quality declined sharply between 2006 and 2011, reducing its classification from good to fair, and making it one of the most polluted rivers in Otago.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the forum is a chance for locals to hear about the water quality results and discuss solutions. It’s also a chance for farmers to learn what they need to do to be compliant with the Otago Water Plan.

“Most locals understand that this sort of degradation of the waterways cannot continue. Unfortunately it is a reality that some of the local farm management practices are contributing to the problem,” Mr Woodhead said.

“We are keen to work with the local farming community to identify solutions to these problems. This will be a major focus of the forum,” he said.

Tile-mole and surface drains are extensively used to enable farming on the catchment’s heavy clay soils, and it was these drains which were often the conduit for most of the contaminants being discharged into the waterways.

Mr Woodhead said ORC accepted that these were not easy issues to solve but a start had to be made, and it was crucial that people got on board with improving water quality in the area.

“Changing some of the practices which have caused the water pollution doesn’t require rocket science. With commitment from local landowners, this catchment can be rehabilitated.”

The ORC permitted activity approach in the Otago Water Plan is designed to give farmers optimum flexibility to deal with water quality issues.

“I’m confident ways can be found to help farmers use that flexibility to their advantage, while at the same time improving water quality and ecosystem health in the Tokomairiro catchment,” Mr Woodhead said.

“We’d prefer not to go down an enforcement path. Rather, we would like to work with the local community to identify practices which will ensure farm activities comply with our rules. We know there are still a few farms with inadequate effluent storage, and that there are farmers who need to fence off stock access to waterways, or take steps to reduce sediment and nutrient contamination.”

“The forum is a good chance for them to talk to us about what measures are best for the local conditions,” Mr Woodhead said.

ENDS


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