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Nitrogen limits in Central Hawke’s Bay

Nitrogen limits in Central Hawke’s Bay some of the strictest in New Zealand

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is reassuring the community that high nitrogen levels in parts of Central Hawke’s Bay are being addressed through some of the toughest land use rules in the country.

Regional Council Chair Rex Graham says addressing high nitrogen levels in Central Hawke’s Bay water is the single biggest focus of the Council’s regulation team at present.

“We are actively working with landowners on this legacy issue to reduce the level of nitrogen in the water and improve water quality in Central Hawke’s Bay through the Tukituki Catchment Plan (PC6),” he says.

The limits set by the plan, for the acceptable level of nutrients in both groundwater and surface water, are some of the strictest regulations in New Zealand, including those proposed by the Government’s Essential Freshwater package.

Rex Graham says there is a huge legacy issue in Central Hawke’s Bay caused by unsustainable farming practices over the last 100 years, particularly intensive livestock farming enabled by irrigation on soils prone to leaching nitrogen.

“This is not going to be solved overnight, but Central Hawke’s Bay farmers are really stepping up and addressing these issues,” he says.

All landowners in the Tukituki catchment have needed Farm Environment Management Plans (FEMPs) since 2018, to manage their nutrient losses, and resource consents to farm are required for over 300 farms during 2020. Consent conditions will control what farmers can do on their land and will severely restrict practices that result in high levels of nitrogen leaching into ground and surface water.

“This is the biggest shift in the regulation of farming practices ever undertaken. It’s not easy on farmers having to make changes to their farming practices while also dealing with a severe drought and COVID-19. We know these rules are tough and water quality won’t improve overnight but we are definitely on the right track now.

“While things are tough now, Central Hawke’s Bay has a bright future growing a diverse range of foods for consumers here at home and across the world. The Regional Council is working hard with the community to make this happen,” says Mr Graham.

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