Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 


Will the Tukituki get better?

Will the Tukituki get better?

Tom Belford
July 3 2014

www.baybuzz.co.nz/archives/7485

Maybe. Maybe not.

The Board of Inquiry (BOI), in its final decision, appears to think it has rescued the Tukituki.

It has required Farm Environmental Management Plans (FEMPs) in which farmers must commit to how they will meet specified nutrient (nitrogen) leaching limits deemed acceptable for their soil conditions (as indicated by the so-called LUC system). Farmers will need to use farming practices that best enable them to meet the limits.

In turn, the cumulative nutrient load in the river (measured most critically in terms of dissolved inorganic nitrogen, DIN) associated with all farming cannot exceed 0.8 mg/L. This compares to DIN limits of 0.44 mg/L set for the Manawatu-Wanganui and Otago regions. So it’s a good limit, not the best.

This limit – opposed by HBRC – was accepted by the BOI on the basis of evidence from environmentalists, who argued that the overall biological health of the river ecosystem was already harmfully affected by current nutrient run-off in the river. HBRC had argued for significantly higher nitrogen limits based on a more narrow measure – fish toxicity. The higher HBRC limit was seen as an enabler of farming intensification in the catchment (i.e., an enabler of the dam).

That the BOI accepted the case for a DIN limit is a victory for the health of the Tukituki.

Some measuring points in the Tukituki catchment presently exceed the 0.8 DIN limit; some do not. In its own calculations, the BOI considered that a small amount of ‘headroom’ for more nitrogen in the river presently existed and therefore the DIN limit was not unduly harsh.

The individual on-farm leaching limits and the overall catchment DIN limit are intended to work together. As the BOI sees it:

“Effective nitrogen management requires a two-pronged approach. The first component involves the setting of on-land root zone leaching limits which will serve as an important control at the source of the leaching process (the fence at the top of the cliff). The other component involves the setting of in-stream nitrate-nitrogen and DIN limits which will serve as a check as to the effectiveness of the LUC leaching rate control.”

Will this approach improve water quality in the Tukituki?
Environmental advocates believe the on-farm leaching limits will ultimately need to be ratcheted lower and embedded in consents in order to meet the DIN limit … and that the DIN limit itself might need to be lowered.

In its final decision, the BOI seemed to anticipate that outcome, saying:

“It is the responsibility of HBRC to avoid the exceedence of DIN limits in the receiving water by regulating the level of nitrogen discharged at the root zone by the farmer and monitoring subsequent DIN concentration in the receiving water. If observed DIN levels are too high then future adjustment by HBRC of the LUC root zone leaching rates may be required.”

And further, in its reasoning for not now setting a lower/tougher DIN limit, the BOI says:

“As water quality science advances a different DIN limit may emerge as a more appropriate level. In the meantime the Board sees the DIN limit of 0.8 mg/L as a pragmatic level that appropriately protects ecological health while enabling more intensive land use.”

But can we, as the “pragmatic” BOI hopes, both have our cake and eat it too? Or has the BOI simply pushed back the day of reckoning when we finally actually decide whether, as Councillor Rex Graham says, “It’s time for farmers to adapt to the river instead of the river adapting to the farmers”?

In all likelihood, if the BOI-ordered regime stands (at this writing, the involved parties have 10 more working days to file legal appeals), sooner or later the Regional Council will have the same political hot potato back on its hands.

If the DIN limit is exceeded a few years down the road, environmentalists will argue for ratcheting down the on-farm leaching rates, as the BOI foresees. But the HBRC, if it maintains its historic and current mindset, can be expected to say: NO, we can’t do that … we’ve already built a dam and farmers have borrowed millions to irrigate and intensify. We must raise the DIN limit instead … or better still, toss that approach entirely, and switch to more accommodating fish toxicity limits.

Surely, you say, that’s not a possibility. Hasn’t the BOI, having studied the matter for over a year, definitively ordered a regime based on DIN limits?

Yes, they did. But, for all practical purposes, the BOI is already history. The political wheel is already turning.

Today, the Government announced its new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (download here). It’s a wimpy disappointment, as expected. And what measure does this NPS adopt for assessing and protecting water quality – fish toxicity! Exactly what the BOI rejected.

So stay tuned folks, the Tukituki ain’t getting better yet. And that’s without the farming intensification a potential dam will encourage.

The BOI might well turn out to be a minor bump in the road — mere road kill — for the dam juggernaut.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

PARLIAMENT TODAY:

Gordon Campbell: The PM’s Hair-Pulling Power Trip

There have been striking differences between (a) the account of the waitress involved in the hair-pulling incidents, and (b) the account being given by Prime Minister John Key. The version by the waitress is available here and is recommended to anyone yet to read it. By her account, there were multiple instances of hair-pulling and these persisted and persisted long after she had made her annoyance clear to Key – who had also been advised by his wife, and by other café staff that the behavior was evidently not being welcomed. More>>

ALSO:

War: What’s To Commemorate?

Gordon Campbell in Werewolf: Is there anything that can be validly commemorated on this 100th anniversary of Gallipoli? Beyond, that is, a fleeting sense of empathy with the thousands of soldiers killed or wounded on April 25 1915 and in the months thereafter, until the whole thing was finally called off in December 1915. More>>

MORE IN WEREWOLF:

ALSO:

Peter Ellis Case: Minister Declines Request For Commission Of Inquiry

Justice Minister Amy Adams has declined a request from supporters of Peter Ellis for a Commission of Inquiry on the basis that an inquiry cannot be used to determine the liability of any person. More>>

Quakes: New Process For Red Zone Crown Offers

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced a process to give everyone a say on the Crown offers to owners of vacant, commercial/industrial and uninsured properties in the Residential Red Zone. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Battle Obama Is Waging Over The TPP

For the past two and a half years, this column has been arguing that the fate of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal will hinge on whether US President Barack Obama can win Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) from Congress... Last week, the White House finally, finally unveiled a draft TPA Bill. More>>

ALSO:

Greens: Govt Breaks Free Doctors Visit Promise To Kids

Documents obtained by the Green Party show that the Government decided to fund only 90 percent of doctors’ visits for children suffering from an injury in an attempt trim the cost of the so-called “free” visits. More>>

ALSO:

Other Wars: Extension Of NZDF Commitment In Afghanistan

The New Zealand Defence Force’s commitment of mentors and support staff to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Afghanistan has been extended out to December 2016, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says. More>>

PM's Press Conference: Auckland Property Prices Increasing "Too Rapidly"

John Key accepted that Auckland property prices 'are going up too rapidly” in a press conference held today in Wellington, however he said that this is not anything new. More>>

ALSO:

Press Conference: ANZAC PMs Concerned About ISIL Bringing The War Home

Prime Minister Key and Prime Minister Abbott spoke of the bond formed between Australia and New Zealand in the “baptism of fire” of Gallipoli. Abbott stated that New Zealand and Australia’s values and interests are linked, and this is reflected in the joint operation in Iraq which will begin shortly. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news