The Green Party has criticised an agreement between Rotorua
farmers and the regional council to reduce nitrogen levels in
Lake Rotorua, saying the compromise further erodes the
country's clean green image.
On Monday, representatives of the Bay of Plenty Regional
Council, Federated Farmers and the Lake Rotorua Primary
Producers' Collective signed a memorandum of understanding -
known as the Oturoa Agreement - to significantly reduce
nitrate levels in the lake during the next 20 years.
The agreement brought to an end a two-year Environment Court
battle between Federated Farmers and the regional council
after the council introduced a regulation requiring the
annual nitrogen load going into the lake to be slashed by
more than 300 tonnes within 10 years.
Federated Farmers said it would withdraw its appeal after
agreeing to a compromise which would see 70 per cent of the
original target reached by deadline, with the remainder by
Green Party environment spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said 20
years was too long to wait to cut nutrient loadings in the
"The proposed timeframe to meet the nutrient reduction target
is too long," she said.
"We need clean water rules and stronger land use controls
now, not just for Lake Rotorua but across New Zealand.
"Without stronger national rules to protect our lakes, rivers
and streams we will continue to see our clean green image
eroded, threatening our agricultural exports."
Ms Sage said voluntary agreements were not enough to clean up
"Dairy cows continue to access and pollute rivers and streams
despite a decade of Fonterra's voluntary Clean Streams
Accord. A 2011 MAF survey found almost half of Bay of Plenty
dairy farms had waterways from which stock were not
Ms Sage said for water quality to improve the country needed
national environmental standards to protect waterways from
stock access, limit stock numbers in sensitive catchments and
set measurable limits on nitrates and other contaminants.
"If councils then want to set stronger standards through
their plans they can.
"Without strong national policies and standards, the threat
of court action will see regional councils caving in to land
users with long timeframes and weak plan provisions," she
However, Rotorua and Taupo Federated Farmers provincial
president Neil Heather, said Ms Sage was completely missing
"Humans have lived around the lake for nigh on a thousand
years," Mr Heather said.
"While you can't turn that around at the click of your
fingers, the hard work of farmers on advice from the likes of
DairyNZ, councils and of course, the community, has paid off.
Mr Heather said the agreement was the next step forward for
the lake and deserved to be held up as a national example.
"It is community team work and means the Greens have to
decide if they are going to be part of the solution or part
of the problem," he said.
- By Matthew Martin of the Daily Post