Call to emulate ORC water-quality approach

Otago's regional council neighbours have been challenged by an Australian resource management specialist to justify why they are not following this region's example when dealing with water quality.

National Farmers Federation natural resource manager Deb Kerr asked Environment Southland and Environment Canterbury representatives the question at the first day of the New Zealand Association of Resource Management conference at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin yesterday.

The discussion arose after the three councils explained their individual responses to the Government requirement to set limits to improve water quality.

While Australia did not have the same problems with water quality, Ms Kerr was in favour of the Otago Regional Council's approach, which allowed farmers more flexibility.

"I prefer that approach," she told the 100 delegates.

Environment Canterbury consultant Ian Brown said there were aspects of the Otago approach, such as giving farmers the opportunity to work out how they met limits, in Canterbury's plan but there was a significant "lag time" in its system.

Environment Southland senior resource planner Rachael Millar said Southland had a complex system, which also had "lag time" problems, hence its regulatory approach to the dairy industry, but it hoped to be more outcome based in the future.

Three farmers, one each from Southland, Otago and Canterbury, also spoke on how they were developing their practices to meet the new standards and their relationship with their respective regional councils.

"I'd like to bang all three of their heads together to get a more common approach - that would be useful to us as farmers," Clutha farmer Stephen Korteweg said.

Association chairman and Waikato Regional Council agricultural adviser Ross Abercrombie said most of the association's members were land management officers employed by regional councils plus some consultants and industry professionals.

Its focus was on coal-face resource management as they were often the "intermediary" between farmers and policymakers.

Today and tomorrow, members will tour the region to talk to farmers about what they are doing and the challenges they face.

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