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One Plan appeal ruling provides way forward

One Plan appeal ruling provides way forward

Fish & Game NZ is welcoming the High Court ruling rejecting an appeal on the legitimacy of the Horizons Regional Council One Plan which aims to tackle farm pollution into waterways.

The appeal was lodged by Horticulture NZ and Federated Farmers who claimed a number of errors of law in the Environment Court’s 2012 ruling on One Plan, which imposed rules on land use to mitigate the adverse impacts of agriculture and horticulture on water quality.

Fish & Game says the ruling is not only about the One Plan framework being endorsed, but also the principles of economically and environmentally sustainable farming maintaining water quality for New Zealand’s longer term future.

“This is about providing a trajectory to reduce nutrient, sediment and E. coli input to maintain water quality and life in New Zealand’s rivers and lakes,” says Fish & Game chief executive Bryce Johnson. “It has been shown that this can be done technically and that farm systems can still retain their profitability.”

Wellington Fish & Game manager Phil Teal says the ruling confirms that the regulations that underpin the One Plan are reasonable, pragmatic and workable.

“Profitability of agricultural operations won’t be adversely affected in meeting their duty to ‘avoid, remedy or mitigate’ impacts on the environment, as has always been required by the RMA,” he says.

Mr Johnson points out that there are a range of mitigation options that are well known and already available.

“With the dairy industry requiring suppliers to commit to fencing stock from streams and prepare nutrient management plans, any marginal costs to comply with One Plan conditions are not unreasonable. Impetus to fence small streams, currently not covered by recent dairy industry initiatives, should now be brought into the environmental mitigation mix.

“The One Plan sets the Horizons region, and now all other regions, on a path towards sustainable agriculture so that water quality and the life-supporting capacity of New Zealand’s waterways are not sacrificed for short-term economic gain.”

Mr Johnson says the High Court decision confirms that all regional councils in New Zealand can, and now should, set limits to protect the life-supporting capacity of rivers, lakes and streams. This will also have benefits for freshwater-based recreation, such as swimming and fishing, and the integrity of the 'Pure NZ' brand.

“This goes to prove that the existing RMA framework delivers good results for the environment and the economy.”

Mr Teal hopes all parties will recognise and accept this decision and get behind what is a workable implementation plan, which will provide a more stable and certain operating environment for the future.

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