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A "full rethink of land use" in Otago is needed following the news that a quarter of the region's dairy farms did not comply with their consents this season, Otago Fish and Game operations manager Ian Hadland says.
Mr Hadland was commenting on an Otago Regional Council report showing the results of dairy-farm inspections for the 2008-09 season, including two prosecutions mostly involving effluent entering waterways.
Decreases in water quality during the past 10 years were having an impact on angler behaviour, he said. While licence numbers had been "steady to increasing", the number of anglers fishing the lower Taieri and streams entering the lower Clutha had notably declined.
"People are just walking away from rivers which are becoming polluted, which is really sad."
Solving the water quality problems in the region would require a balance of good planning measures and solid compliance from a motivated regional council, he said.
"It's clear that the compliance approach isn't hitting home, so it really only leaves land-use controls to manage direct and non-point source pollution."
It needed more than a change in behaviour; it required "a full rethink about land use".
The situation had to change and Fish and Game Otago was becoming increasingly impatient with the "progress" to date, he said.
New Zealand Fish and Game Council chief executive Bryce Johnson said the issue was highlighted by the Public Perceptions of New Zealand's Environment survey released this month, which showed more than half of those surveyed believed the management of farm effluent and runoff was bad or very bad, and the rating was worse than perceptions recorded in 2006.
"[It] continues to highlight Kiwis' growing dissatisfaction with the quality and management of our finite freshwater resources."
Proponents of intensified agriculture could be in no doubt that the New Zealand public would not tolerate ongoing degradation of their freshwater resources, he said.
Federated Farmers Otago dairy chairman David Wilson said in his view, people had to be realistic, as there needed to be balance between the need to protect the environment and the ability of New Zealand to be profitable.
"Dairy and farming is such a large percentage of New Zealand's income, that at this time careful balance and realistic views need to be put forward."
Regional council chairman Stephen Cairns said directing what was an appropriate use of private land was not an area in which the council was thinking of becoming involved. However, it was "hell-bent" on ensuring compliance of any land use on private land.
Land use was more the jurisdiction of a district council and the regional council would work with any of these, and Fish and Game, if they wanted to take leadership in that area, he said.