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Better Lake Rotorua = Farmers + Community + Councils

18 February 2013

Better Lake Rotorua = Farmers + Community + Councils

A “third way” to better water quality is the promise of the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective signed between Federated Farmers, Te Arawa and councils.
“The positive reaction has been pretty amazing,” says Neil Heather, Federated Farmers Rotorua/Taupo provincial president.

“This is the application of a Land and Water Partnership type approach at a local level.

“Despite one academic taking a pot shot, most Kiwis will see farmers and landowners working hard with regulators to improve what is our lake too.

“We all started out with a lake that was in a pretty bad way. It had suffered from decades of human, animal and industrial flows, not to mention, geothermal activity.

“Thanks to years of hard work inside and outside the farm gate, we now have a lake trending in the right direction. This ought to make a lot of people sit up and take notice.

“We have bettered targets set for the lake and decades early too.

“The agreed “medium term” target for the lake was a ‘Trophic Level Index (TLI)’ of 4.2 but we went under that last year. Lake nutrient measurements in 2012 returned a TLI of 4.1 as part of an improving trend.

“This means Lake Rotorua has “average water quality” but in the time it has taken to get there, “average” is excellent.

“In what can seem like an avalanche of negative press about farming and the environment, what is often overlooked is the positive and proactive role landowners’ play.

“While the science is complex we have benefitted from Beef+Lamb NZ’s input but especially the massive investment by DairyNZ on the ground here. Federated Farmers brings this together in a policy sense with our bottom line being that solutions must be science based.

“We also need to acknowledge the huge investment of Rotorua District Council moving to the on-land treatment of human and industrial waste. They are a model for other councils who discharge a majority of New Zealand’s treated waste into rivers or the sea.

“While Federated Farmers has butted heads with Bay of Plenty Regional Council, a change in mood there has given me the confidence to sign the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective.

“Yet our local MP, Todd McLay, really deserves plaudits. Mr McLay got us, stakeholders and the council together and has broken a litigious cycle that seems to typify the Resource Management Act.

“It is why I think the agreement we have signed is, I believe, the third way to better water outcomes,” Mr Heather concluded.


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