Water plan change 6A approved by ORC

Farmers and foresters have been put on notice by the Otago Regional Council.

Its new water quality regulations, which the council approved yesterday and allow landowners to choose what they do on their land as long as their run-off meets certain standards, do not mean business as usual, chairman Stephen Woodhead said at a council meeting.

''It is unique to Otago in the freedom it allows landowners but it comes with big riders.

''It's not a free bus ticket.''

The 6A water plan changes will come into force on May 1, ending an approximately five-year process to secure a water quality in Otago safe for swimming.

Yesterday, the council celebrated its achievement of enacting the plan change without a lengthy and costly Environ-ment Court battle, as had happened with similar plan changes in other regions.

The appeals of 21 parties who were against the plan change were resolved through mediation.

Mr Woodhead said the achievement was a tribute to the council's collaborative approach to designing the changes.

The plan also gave effect to the Government's National Policy Statement for Freshwater and met the desires of the Otago community to have recreational-level water quality, he said. Landowners needed to quickly understood their responsibilities and the environmental impacts.

''It's not business as usual. The standards in this plan are quite tough ...[some staff] would describe as world-leading.''

The plan included transition times which landowners had to take advantage of to make changes on their properties so the region could ''deliver on our intent and make sure our children and grandchildren can use our waterways as we have''.

Cr David Shepherd, who sat on the plan change hearing panel alongside former councillor Duncan Butcher and independent commissioner Clive Geddes, said it was a major achievement to have adopted a plan change without an Environment Court hearing.

That was due to the work done by staff early in the process in consulting the community, he said.

''We led the way in that type of consultation. We've shown the way it should be done.''

Cr Doug Brown said it had been a long journey and it was ''almost surprising'' how community attitudes had altered over that time towards the plan change.

''There was a lot of resentment, initially, but it's pleas-ing to see how much people have come on board.''

Policy planning and resource management director Fraser McRae said it was very pleasing only one of the discharge thresholds set had to be altered.

That change increased the nitrogen leaching rate for the Queenstown Lakes from 10kg to 15kg per ha per year and did not open up the area for further intensive development, he said.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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