They're here. The anxiously-awaited Environment Canterbury
water quality rules have been decided.
They introduce controls on nitrate leaching that some farmers
had feared could force changes to their land uses.
The Land and Water Regional Plan was agreed at ECan's meeting
on Thursday. It covers a broad range of activities that
affect the quality of water in rural and urban areas across
Recommendations from hearings commissioners were accepted by
the ECan council.
Commissioner Prof Peter Skelton said when the plan's rules
were in full effect next year, farmers and land users would
have to manage their operations and improve their
environmental performance so the decline in water quality was
reversed over time.
''This is a core focus of the plan because activities in
rural areas greatly affect the quality of our water, much of
which is found underground,'' Prof Skelton said.
''However, the plan also deals with water quality issues in
urban areas and a variety of land-use activities. These range
from on-site wastewater to storing hazardous substances.
''There are a number of rules aimed at cleaning up stormwater
and sewage overflows - particularly in Christchurch. We are
working effectively with the territorial authorities and
other stakeholders to address these issues.
''Declining water quality is a major issue in Canterbury and
one that could take a long time to reverse in some areas,''
''These rules are a good start. Some farmers and other land
users need to improve their environmental performance. Many
are already taking responsibility, which is to be
The plan focused on outcomes rather than inputs, Prof Skelton
''Land users know their own businesses so they won't be told
what to do with their land. Whatever they do, however, they
will need to meet the rules.''
There are limits that apply now, based on nutrient allocation
zones. Those with more serious water quality issues have
''By 2017, we anticipate that the plan will contain a series
of numbers setting out good management practices across a
range of land types, climates and land uses,'' Prof Skelton
''Many organisations are involved in developing those numbers
and we expect them to be available by 2015.''
The plan set the framework for community water goals, a
collaborative approach taken through the Canterbury Water
Commissioner with policy responsibility for water David
Caygill said the strategy asked what outcomes the community
wanted for its waterways, and the targets it should aim for.
''We set a number of environmental outcomes and worked back
from those to see how land users can help achieve them,'' Mr
In areas where the environment had been harmed, limits in the
plan would help address this.
In each catchment, communities were involved in developing
more detailed plans and rules for local solutions.
Good progress was being made in Selwyn-Waihora, ECan said,
with Ashburton-Hinds, Lower Waitaki-South Coastal Canterbury,
Upper Waitaki and Wairewa/Lake Forsyth close behind.
The plan also considered land stability, flood protection and
The council's decision to accept the plan would be notified
on January 18. It would become operative later in the year.