Sunday, December 3, 2023

Water concerns find receptive ear at ORC

Neal Wallace
Council said to have promised changes to Regional Land and Water Management Plan.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Farmers say they are relieved the Otago Regional Council appears to be listening to their concerns about the rules and regulations proposed in its Regional Land and Water Management Plan.

Federated Farmers vice-president Anna Gillespie said there are areas farmers have major concerns about – which she described as impractical and inconsistent.

The plan proposes dairy farmers in six freshwater management units in the province (similar to catchments) have a nitrogen cap of 100kg/ha/year or they will need a resource consent for dairy platforms and support units. They will also be limited to 2.5cows/ha.

Another concern is cultivation setbacks from waterways, which farmers say should be incorporated in the still-to-be-released freshwater farm plans.

Gillespie said there is lack of specific detail with some council proposals, but also inconsistency in how those measures will be applied.

For example, the cultivation rule applies to farms but not to residential housing on the banks of a waterway. 

But Gillespie said the council appears to be listening and has told farming leaders there will be changes to the plan.

“Given how much they are prepared to change already, we are confident they will change it in the future.”

She also welcomed the fact that the plan is based on freshwater management units, to take account of the climatic differences in the province.

But here too she said there have been some inconsistencies.

Rules for dairy farmers in Central Otago’s Manuherikia Valley differ from those that apply to the Upper Clutha around Hawea, despite the areas having similar soils and climate.

Meanwhile, farmers in the Manuherikia Valley are hopeful the council will consider their plan for managing the minimum flow of the Manuherikia River.

Landowners, environmentalists and the council have for years been debating how to manage the river flow.

Last month the council opted to impose a minimum flow of 1200cumes by 2030 and 2500cumecs by 2050.

Gillespie said landowners have proposed a whole-of-catchment management plan by 2030 to provide a minimum flow of 11cumecs by 2030 with provisions to protect and enhance ecological and natural values.

She said the council is prepared to talk to them about their proposal.

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