Water quality plan changes

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ENVIRONMENT Southland is prepared for changes outlined by the Government’s new rules and regulations regarding water quality.

The package, which was consulted on last year, introduced new rules and regulations which placed clear timeframes on actions to halt and reverse declining water quality.

Included in the package was a new National Environment Standard for Freshwater and a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

ES chairman Nicol Horrell said the documents would help to continue making progress towards the environmental outcomes communities want.

Funding allocated in the budget for environmental initiatives was recognition improving water quality would need investment to complement the regulatory changes announced, Mr Horrell said.

“We have progressed the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan and developed the Regional Forum to ensure we have the policies and rules in place to support the change that is required to achieve our communities’ aspirations for water in Southland.”

Those would align them well with the direction the new National Policy Statement and National Environmental Standards were taking, he said.

Several MPs had also voiced their opinions on the announcement and the changes involved.

National MP for Clutha-Southland Hamish Walker said an exemption in the freshwater policy was unfair. These included five hydropower schemes including the Manapouri and Clutha schemes.

“While we are all for renewable energy, it is not fair that there is one rule for some and one rule for others.”

Labour MP Dr Liz Craig welcomed the decisions announced on the Action for Healthy Waterways Package.

“The degraded state of the New River Estuary shows what can happen if we take our eye off the ball in terms of water quality.”

The new protections for wetlands and streams, along with stronger controls on feedlots, intensive winter grazing, and excessive fertiliser use, would reduce the amount of nutrients and sediments entering our waterways, she said.

“In the New River Estuary, reducing nutrient and sediment run-off would make a huge difference, with one of the biggest threats to biodiversity being the thick nutrient-enriched mud that’s smothering everything,” she said.

She was pleased to see the Government supporting the primary sector and other groups with the $700 million fund to create jobs in riparian and wetland planting, removing sediments and other initiatives to prevent run-off entering waterways, she said.

“It’s also great to see the Government has made changes that will reduce the costs and impacts on farmers, in response the more than 17,500 submissions it received on the package, and in acknowledgement of the challenges the primary sector is facing as a result of Covid-19.”

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