Farmers in the Hinds water catch› ment area were still
suggesting changes to a plan to improve water quality and
quantity in the area just hours before it was due to be
Disquiet over the ability to meet recommended standards and
the costs for doing so were expressed at public meetings last
About 110 people turned out to two meetings in Hinds, where
recommendations put forward by the Ashburton zone committee
for improving water resources in the catchment were
The committee is a joint committee established by Environment
Canterbury and the Ashburton District Council. It was seeking
feedback before it considered adopting the recommendations
this week and then forwarding them to the commissioners at
Environment Canterbury for adoption.
Following these meetings, the Hinds Plains Land and Water
Partnership held a public meeting to consider further
recommendations to the committee, which attracted about 50
Chairman Rab McDowell said it was an opportunity to make
suggestions that would make the plan more workable without
negating the aims of the zone committee.
Little analysis had been done so far on the economic effect
of recommendations in the plan, Mr McDowell said.
There was also concern among farmers in the lower part of the
plains that irrigation scheme and drain management committees
already operating would be sidelined. Local knowledge on what
was working did not seem to have been recognised, he said.
If the plan was to gain farmers' confidence, it needed to
ensure such issues were resolved from the outset.
The group was forwarding its recommendation to the zone
committee for yesterday's meeting at, which the plan was due
to be adopted.
At the other public meetings, farmers expressed concern that
a suggestion there be a 40% reduction in nitrogen leaching
across the catchment by 2035 would relate to a 50% reduction
by dairy farmers.
A timetable showed a 5% reduction, using current practices,
would be sought by 2017, rising to a 35% reduction by 2020
and 40% by 2035.
Environment Canterbury commissioner David Caygill reassured
them the timetable would not be"‘hardwired'' and would not be
taken through to rules.
The committee acknowledged the recommendations would not
achieve all the desired outcomes for the Hinds Plains area by
2040, but it would be a significant first step. It also
recognised there were some uncertainties, particularly on the
cost and effectiveness of managed aquifer recharge, but said
these should not be used as an excuse for no action.
Mr Caygill emphasised the measures would continue to be
reviewed regularly and said there was still scope for
The solution package includes 30,000ha of new intensive,
irrigated land use which, it is estimated, could contribute
an additional $104 million to the gross domestic product and
create 232 new jobs per year in the regional economy
The extensive package includes 44 recommendations covering
such things as land management, reducing the loss of nitrogen
and nutrient levels, the introduction of farm environment
plans by 2017, recharging aquifers, and man› aging ground
water allocation including establishing a working party this
The working party would address the likes of minimum flow
targets and measuring sites, partial restrictions, switching
takes from surface to deep groundwater, in›stream and habitat
restoration, improved drain manage› ment and assessing the
effectiveness of aquifer recharging.
- by Maureen Bishop