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Controls on nitrate leaching feature of Regional Plan

Controls on nitrate leaching feature of new Land & Water Regional Plan

For the first time, controls on the leaching of nitrates in farming across the region are to be set by Environment Canterbury through its Land & Water Regional Plan.

The Hearing Commissioners’ recommendations on the plan will be considered at the Environment Canterbury council meeting on Thursday 5 December. Commissioner Peter Skelton says that once the plan’s rules are in full effect next year, the council will require farmers and land-users to manage their operations and improve their environmental performance so the decline in water quality can be reversed.

“In Canterbury we are well aware declining water quality is an issue,” Professor Skelton said. “Farmers realise that the primary sector needs to improve its environmental performance, and we acknowledge the efforts many land users are already making.

“This new plan means for the first time we have rules in place which require farmers to manage nitrate leaching, particularly if they are in a part of the region where nitrates are causing a significant water quality problem – our nutrient red zones. Within those limits, the plan enables economic activity.

“Farmers will not be told what to do with their land – they know their own businesses. Whatever they do, however, they will be required to comply with the rules.”

The Land & Water Regional Plan sets the regulatory framework which implements the community aspirations for water being progressed through the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. The Canterbury Water Management Strategy is a community led, collaborative approach to improve water outcomes across the region.

The Commissioner with policy responsibility for water, David Caygill, says the Strategy’s approach started with asking what outcomes the community wanted for its lakes and rivers, and what targets should be pursued.

“Through the Land & Water Regional Plan we are putting in place the policies and rules to ensure we achieve those targets, which include long-term improvements in both freshwater quality and quantity.

The new Land & Water Regional Plan sets standards across the region. At the more local level, the community is involved in developing more detailed (sub-regional) plans and rules which will put in place local solutions for local problems. This has already occurred in the Hurunui-Waiau area, and is well progressed in the Selwyn-Waihora catchment. Not far behind are Ashburton-Hinds, Lower Waitaki - South Coastal Canterbury, Upper Waitaki and Wairewa / Lake Forsyth.

“These catchment-based, sub-regional sections of the plan will be developed progressively to meet local community aspirations for the management of their water,” Mr Caygill said.

Professor Skelton said the new rules also address water quality issues in urban areas. “There are new rules which will protect the rivers and streams in our towns and cities from pollution from stormwater and wastewater discharges.

As well as addressing water quality and quantity issues, the Land & Water Regional Plan enables earthquake recovery and considers other important issues for the future of Canterbury such as land stability, flood protection and biodiversity.

If the Hearing Commissioners’ recommendations are accepted on 5 December, council’s decisions will be notified on 18 January 2014. The plan will then become operative later in the year, subject to any appeals on questions of law.


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