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Parts of One Plan implementation still too flimsy

Parts of One Plan implementation still too flimsy

Fish & Game NZ supports aspects of Horizons Regional Council’s draft implementation plan to reduce nitrogen leaching and contaminant loss to water bodies in accordance with the One Plan Environment Court ruling, but queries the legality of a proposed “do nothing” clause.

The organisation supports the overall concept of a consenting process that incentivises landholders – via a long-term controlled activity consent – who can demonstrate they are already meeting the sustainable nutrient limits.

Similarly, Fish & Game recognises those farmers who cannot reasonably meet the sustainable nutrient limits, but who commit to the staged introduction of best management practice and progressively stepped reductions in contaminant losses from current levels, should be granted consent via a discretionary consent for 10 years.

This reflects the intent of the decision given by the Environment Court with respect to nutrient management. Both consent categories would require routine and regular monitoring and reporting by the regional council.

However, Fish & Game does not support the proposed guaranteed granting of short term restricted discretionary consents to those landholders with no nitrogen mitigation beyond their supply agreements – essentially a “do nothing” clause that will not lead to any environmental improvements, and could even result in water quality declining further.

Establishing a policy that grants consent in all cases without conditions or performance requirements is essentially a ‘Claytons’ consent of no value to the natural environment and is outside the scope of the legal decision. Fish & Game will be engaging with Horizons on this proposed consent category around its legality and compatibility with the intention of the Environment Court decision on the One Plan.

Fish & Game believes there is no justification for such a flimsy approach when the Environment Court was satisfied that landowners leaching above the sustainable nutrient limits could reduce their nutrient leaching without significant impact on the farm business.

The One Plan, as approved by the Court, clearly expects that those applications for restricted discretionary consent will commit to a practical proposal to improve farm management practices and reduce nutrient leaching. What Horizons is proposing with this third consent category is not consistent with that Court ruling.

Fish & Game adds that reliance on dairy company supply agreements to reduce nutrient contamination of waterways won’t go far enough – they don’t mandate best management practice, don’t require reductions in nutrient leaching, and don’t even reflect what Fonterra said in the Environment Court relating to what farmers should be accomplishing.

ENDS

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