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ORC welcomes freshwater policy debate

ORC welcomes freshwater policy debate

The Otago Regional Council has welcomed the strong public interest being shown locally in discussing freshwater management policy issues this election.

A public meeting is being held tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the Dunedin Public Library at which three MPs: Michael Woodhouse (National Party); David Parker (Labour Party) and Eugenie Sage (Green Party) will speak.

The meeting is being chaired by Geoff Simmons of the Morgan Foundation, which has recently launched a campaign to improve water quality in New Zealand rivers.

The impetus for the meeting has come from groups representing angling, mountaineering, conservation and whitewater rafting interests.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said it was refreshing to see people being passionate about water quality issues.

The meeting was a good opportunity to continue the ongoing debate about such issues, and it was also timely given that ORC is currently implementing new water quality rules for Otago rivers through the revised Otago Water Plan, Mr Bodeker said.

“We are proud of the fact that our new rules are now being welcomed by groups and individuals who were previously sceptical of whether they would be workable at all. The change in mindset has come about, I believe, because we took the community with us during the policy development, and didn’t seek to unilaterally impose it on people.”

“We have set the bar high as far our water quality standards are concerned, but so not high that they can’t be achieved by innovative thinking and a willingness to adapt land management practices where necessary to comply.”

Mr Bodeker said the key to the new regulatory approach was in giving land managers the flexibility to farm or harvest using whatever techniques they thought was best.

“An important caveat is that discharges of pollutants such as sediment, bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus must meet the conditions we have built in to protect water quality. Another is that environmentally damaging activities such as the discharge of dairy effluent and excessive sediment into a waterway is prohibited without exception,” Mr Bodeker said.

“We recognise that our farmers, foresters, and orchardists are among our major contributors to the regional economy, and we have designed the rules to help them remain viable whilst protecting the environment from adverse effects.”

“However, they have also been designed with the sizeable section of our community which wants to be able to swim safely, catch fish which haven’t been tainted by poor water quality, and otherwise enjoy the great outdoors, in mind.”

“As a council we will watch the unfolding policy debate with interest, and look forward to a range of positive contributions, from the community and politicians alike,” Mr Bodeker said.

ends

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