Nutrient Management and Waitaki Plan Change recommendations accepted

Environment Canterbury

Nutrient Management and Waitaki Plan Change recommendations accepted

Environment Canterbury announced today that it had accepted the recommendations of independent hearing commissioners on the Nutrient Management and Waitaki Plan Change, Plan Change 5 to the Land & Water Regional Plan.

The Plan Change seeks to deal with the effects of land uses, particularly farming activities, on water quality at a region-wide level, and to ensure the effective management of water quality in the Waitaki catchment.

When operative, the nutrient management rules will apply in catchments not currently the subject of sub-region plans. With some minor exceptions, the rules in Plan Change 5 do not take legal effect until the Plan Change is made operative.

Councillor Peter Skelton said the Plan Change sets industry agreed “Good Management Practice” as the minimum standard for all farming activities.  “If the Plan becomes operative in its current form, resource consent, including audited Farm Environment Plans, will be required if the area of winter grazing or irrigation on a property exceeds permitted limits,” Professor Skelton said.

“The nutrient management rules are intended to address the effects of changing land use and promote improved water quality outcomes throughout the region. With this in mind we need to be clear about what constitutes Good Management Practice on farm. Industry groups have now described what this means for their sector.”

All farmers should have, as a starting point, a baseline nitrogen baseline leaching rate that reflects Good Management Practice.

“Implementation of good management practices responds to community expectations, and will help achieve better water quality outcomes,” Professor Skelton said. “Every farmer is encouraged, and often required by the rules, to do an assessment of the environmental impacts of their farming activities.

“A Farm Environment Plan is a valuable tool for doing this. Environment Canterbury has developed a Farm Portal to provide easy access to nutrient management information. The Plan Change requires farmers to register their farming activities on this website.”

The specific rules relating to the Waitaki catchment help deliver the local community’s aspirations for water quality.  These have been developed through the Upper and Lower Waitaki Zone Committees.  They will meet the water-quality requirements in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management in this area.

There are new water quality outcomes and a nutrient regime for managing to those outcomes. The Plan Change aims to manage the effects of land use and discharges from activities such as aquaculture on water quality in the Waitaki. Aquaculture and farming activities are both required to meet good practices, implement environment plans and avoid exceeding limits.

The Plan Change also includes a new minimum flow regime for Whitneys Creek (a small stream north of the Waitaki) and rules that restrict the transfer of surface water permits within the Whitneys Creek Zone. These provisions act as a package to protect in-stream values.

Some of the rules for the Upper Waitaki area will have immediate legal effect, while the rest will come into effect when the Plan Change becomes operative.

The “decisions” version of the Plan Change will be notified on 24 June 2017.  From that date, the decisions version replaces the publicly notified version of the Plan Change. The period for lodging appeals starts on 24 June 2017 and extends for 20 working days from that date. Appeals on the Council’s decision may be lodged in the High Court, but only on a point of law.

For more information, go to https://www.ecan.govt.nz/get-involved/council-and-committee-meetings/ and search on the 15 June Council agenda.

“Excellent progress has been made with our planning work in the last few years,” Peter Skelton concluded. “In partnership with the community, we are well on the way towards completing catchment-focused rules for the whole region.”

Background

The Land & Water Regional Plan became operative in September 2015. It sets the framework to implement community aspirations for water through the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, a community led, collaborative approach to improve water outcomes throughout the region. The Land & Water Regional Plan operates at two levels – a region-wide section and 10 sub-region sections. The policies and rules in the sub-region sections can apply instead of, or in addition to, policies and rules in the region-wide section. The sub-region sections implement the region-wide objectives in the plan in the most appropriate way for the catchment. Sub-region sections that are now legally effective cover the Hurunui-Waiau, Selwyn Te Waihora, Wairewa/Lake Forsyth, Hinds Plains and Waitaki – South Coastal Canterbury catchments.

For more information on the Land & Water Regional Plan, go to www.ecan.govt.nz/lwrp

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