Council takes non-prescriptive approach

The Otago Regional Council has taken a non-prescriptive approach to ensuring Otago farmers meet the requirements of its recently-launched Otago Water Plan - Plan Change 6A (PC6A) and that means farmers will take responsibility for the water quality coming off their land.

The council's community liaison and education group will help them get their heads around the new rules.

Community liaison and education manager Nicola McGrouther said the ORC had held 15 road shows throughout the region to date and talked to about 1000 people about the changes.''

It was really fantastic to see farmers coming in to hear about the plan changes,'' Ms McGrouther said.

There had been widespread consultation in the four-year lead-up to PC6A.

''We had a wide range of responses and the support to our approach has been really reassuring.

'Many farmers have got to the point of having some level of understanding.''

There has been really good support for the ORC's approach from farmers being allowed to take responsibility for the water quality coming off their land and for us not telling them what they should do, a non-prescriptive approach.

''A lot of farmers figure out their own solutions and are driving innovation as they know how their farm operates and where the best places are to make changes.''

Most farmers consider themselves guardians of the land. They are passionate about leaving the land in a better place than when they took it on.''

The team was available on the phone to answer questions or for visits to properties to advise on issues and also intended to hold field days in the future to answer questions about the rules and water sampling and what the results were likely to mean.''

We want to help farmers understand what the new rules are and what it means for them,' Ms McGrouther said.

Farmers also need to test their water quality to find out if they are likely to be over the contaminant thresholds set for 2020 and if they need to make changes to ensure compliance.

Director of Stakeholder Engagement Jane Leahy said although she had only recently been involved with the PC6A, the key thing she had found was that Otago had a ''pretty good water quality,'' better than in many areas of New Zealand, although some areas still needed to be checked.

yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz