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HBRC adopts proposed Tukituki Plan Change

HBRC adopts proposed Tukituki Plan Change

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has today adopted the proposed Tukituki Plan Change which puts in place strategies to maintain and enhance the values of the Tukituki Catchment.

The proposed Plan Change sets out the environmental bottom lines for all activities in the catchment – for taking water, discharging to water and land, and now the use of the land. It sets out water quality and allocation limits, and increases minimum river flows to achieve specific objectives around the mauri of the river, water quality, river flows, and slime and algae. It also enables community irrigation.

“This is a milestone for this region, as this is the most comprehensive volume of planning work that has been done by this Council, with others, in the region and has taken the best part of 4 years,” says HBRC Chairman Fenton Wilson.

“This is the most studied and monitored catchment in the region and the HBRC planning team have worked with many people in the community to develop rules based on the extensive science investigations that have been done. I commend everyone who has taken time to contribute to this proposed plan change through the stakeholder groups, through public consultation, meetings and personal input.”

The proposed Plan Change aims to manage the excessive slime and algae growth in the Tukituki River by reducing the amount of phosphorus going into the tributaries and river. Science investigations confirm that reducing the phosphorus load in the catchment will deliver the biggest and quickest gains for environmental improvement.

An improvement that is already scheduled is the treatment of discharges from the Waipawa and Waipukurau wastewater plants, which will significantly reduce the phosphorus load in the Tukituki River. This is a requirement of existing resource consent conditions by September 2014.

The proposed Plan Change includes rules for keeping stock out of river water. This will help reduce algae growth where phosphorus is attached to soil which currently enters the river system. Keeping stock out of the water will also improve stream banks and habitats for native fish and trout, as well as aesthetics.

Costs to farmers of fencing stock out of waterways range from $4,500 - $6,000 per farm, with other costs also for developing nutrient budgets and phosphorus management plans.

“There is a perception in the community that all we need to do is fence off the main rivers. But it’s fencing off of the 34,000 kilometres of tributaries, that is all the smaller streams that pass through farms, that will make the difference here – and we cannot underestimate the huge task that will be,” says Mike Mohi, HBRC’s Māori Committee Chairman.

The proposes plan change recommends increasing minimum flows to protect fish habitats, and this will mean some consent holders will need to stop taking water for irrigation earlier than they currently do.

HBRC recognises that the Tukituki Plan Change will reduce the reliability of water supply and so, in parallel, has been investigating the storage of higher river flows to provide an alternative supply. This plan change and the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme are part of a strategic approach to managing the Tukituki catchment.

HBRC has acknowledged that a transition time is essential to enable farmers to make these changes, so stock exclusion will not take effect until 2017, and new minimum flow restrictions until 2018.

This is the first plan in the region that sets rules for farming activities, so HBRC has developed a Tukituki Implementation Plan which outlines the programmes that will support the implementation of non-regulatory approaches referred to in the Plan Change relating to the use of production land.

Council has agreed the notification of the Plan Change should line up with the lodging of resource consent applications for the Ruataniwha Water Storage scheme. HBRC’s Investment Company, HBRIC Ltd will request the Plan change and the RWSS resource consents be called in to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as a matter of national significance to enable an independent and integrated decision making process to occur through a single Board of Inquiry. This is currently programmed for early May.

ENDS

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