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ORC notifies decision on deferring provisions in Water Plan

Otago Regional Council is to delay the 2020 date for water quality provisions for farming to take effect after a successful plan change process (Plan Change 6AA to the Regional Plan: Water for Otago). This means some provisions of the Regional Plan: Water for Otago will not come into effect until 2026. ORC is emphasising that the delay does not mean a loosening-off on improving water quality; by March, new rules impacting urban and rural water quality are due to be proposed, with the new Land and Water Regional Plan to be notified in late 2023.

ORC General Manager Strategy, Policy and Science Gwyneth Elsum said the plan change was a necessary step in the path to better water quality for Otago.

“Certain provisions of water quality rules for rural discharges (Plan Change 6A) relating to discharge contaminant concentrations, nitrogen leaching rules, and Overseer were considered ambiguous and unenforceable. Because of this, we know they would not have had the intended effects on water quality, and would only have caused uncertainty for those trying to comply.

“This plan change means those rules won’t be coming into effect, but it doesn’t mean we are stepping back from our aim to improve water quality. We’re working right now on another plan change to add new provisions targeting water quality. These additional provisions that are in the pipeline are an interim step towards what will eventually be a new Land and Water Regional Plan for Otago,” Ms Elsum said.

Councillors agreed in August 2019 on the proposal to defer the 6A deadline and to strengthen ORC’s water quality framework through a separate plan change.

Plan Change 6AA, the plan change needed to defer the problematic provisions of 6A, was notified on 5 October and received 20 submissions from the public, ten of which were in support, with nine opposed and one neutral. Eight submitters spoke to their submissions in hearings on 18 and 19 December.

The proposed plan change, submissions, evidence, and reports were considered by an independent Hearing Commissioner, Rob Van Voorthuysen. The Hearing Commissioner recommended that ORC approve and adopt Plan Change 6AA as notified, without amendment.

Councillors agreed with the recommendation and resolved to notify the plan change at a meeting on 29 January.

Those who submitted on the plan change may appeal the Council’s decision within 30 working days of notification, meaning Plan Change 6AA is subject to appeals until Tuesday 24 March.

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