President supports water and land plan

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FEDERATED Farmers Southland president Allan Baird has given his ‘‘guarded support’’ to Environment Southland’s (ES) proposed Water and Land Plan.
The plan was released on Friday after a 15-month voluntary consultation period. Formal consultation has now begun, with submissions closing on August 1 and hearings scheduled for early next year.
Mr Baird said his first impression was ES staff had ‘‘made a very good job’’ of taking farmers’ views on board and scaling back some of the previous recommendations farmers had objected to during consultation.
One example was deleting the recommendation that all farmers installing new tile drains must construct a wetland or filter system before the contents of the drain reached a waterway. If adopted, that recommendation would have been expensive and unworkable for farmers, he said.
The proposed plan seemed ‘‘pragmatic’’, he said.
‘‘Certainly there is further work to be done [by farmers] to understand the detail and what is required of them. But ES has listened… They realise if they asked too much all at once they risked farmers just turning their backs on the plan.’’
Mr Baird said farmers accepted they would need to write environmental management plans, and apply for consent for some activities.
However, he said if the proposed plan was adopted without amendment, farming activities in some parts of Southland would be constrained, leaving some farmers ‘‘feeling put upon’’.
ES managers said ‘‘smart science’’ had been used to more accurately define which waterways and underground aquifers were most susceptible to pollution from stock effluent and other contaminants.
‘‘It is the science that underpins this document. What it means is we don’t have to have blanket ‘one size fits all’ rules,’’ policy and planning manager Anita Dawe said.
Scientists had combined information such as water origin, soil type, geology and topography to create nine different physiographic zones, policy, planning and regulatory services manager Vin Smith said. They included alpine, bedrock/hill country, central plains, lignite/marine terraces, peat wetlands and riverine.
Each zone was different in the way contaminants built up and moved through the soil into aquifers and waterways.
‘‘While most other regional councils have these individual layers of information, what we have been able to do, using some very smart science, is to bring them together — to actually understand the relationship between what’s occurring on the land and what’s happening in the water,’’ Mr Smith said.
All the scientific information would be available to farmers, he said.
Under the National Guidelines for Freshwater, ES must have water catchment limits in place across Southland by 2025.
Mr Smith said the proposed plan laid the foundations for that process.

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