Call for 'maverick' council to halt plan change

A group of farmers and companies has called for the Otago Regional Council to halt its water quality plan change, saying it is behaving in a "maverick way" and against national and its own regulations.

The council's plan change 6A (PC6A) was "legally and practically inappropriate", counsel Phil Page said on behalf of 10 farmers and Calder Stewart Industries, Mainland Poultry and Dunedin International Airport, during day two of public hearings in Dunedin yesterday.

"What you need to do is manage water on a catchment basis, because that is the way it behaves. 6A does not do that," he told the hearing panel.

The council needed to stop because if it did not it was in danger of getting the application of the national policy statement "out of whack".

The plan change also did not give effect to the council's own regional policy statement or indicate it understood separating out rural water quality from urban water quality was procedurally unfair.

"You can't pitch town and country against each other."

Environmental consultant Nigel Bryce said it was difficult to manage the cumulative effects of discharges when only part of the discharge loadwas considered.

He questioned why the council was not using an approach that had or was being adopted by other regions.

The council should be looking at a more comprehensive catchment and sub-catchment assessment of freshwater discharges and the setting of limits, he said.

"PC6A should be advanced with a robust cost benefit analysis that appropriately weighs the social and economic implications ..."

Environmental scientist Dr Dean Olsen said the way 6A grouped waterways was too broad and did not take into account physical, geological or ecological differences.

"This will result in water quality standards that are not appropriate for an individual waterway."

The removal of the provision for "reasonable mixing" meant the same discharge level would apply to a small stream and to a large river, which had a greater capacity to absorb contaminants.

"This approach will set discharge limits that are too liberal in some catchments and too restrictive in others."

The application of some of the standards as five-year median values could result in substantial reductions in water quality, because for some of that period standards could be breached.

Dairy, sheep and beef farmers spoke of their concerns about sedimentation, crossings and fencing impacting negatively on their livelihoods and farming practices such as winter cropping.

Taieri dairy farmer Colin Scurr said the plan change had the potential to greatly affect farmers' lives but would do little to improve the environment.

"We need to know from day to day whether we are compliant and what steps we need to take to ensure this. The current plan is too unclear and uncertain for us to sensibly apply it."

Hamish Cavanagh, of Hawkdun Station in the Upper Manuherikia Valley, said requests for tighter controls by the Department of Conservation in its submission would make it difficult to continue farming the area, even though their water quality was excellent.

"If they have their way we may face restrictions or even need resource consents to graze affected land."

Clydevale dairy farm Robert van Vugt believed the "one rule fits all" approach seemed impossible to monitor and would significantly impact on business, with Otago becoming less competitive.

Sheep and cattle farmer David Greer, of Kyeburn, said the plan change had far-reaching implications for his farm, due to the number of creeks and waterways that had to be crossed for routine stock shifting and musters.

"We hate the idea of breaking the law every day we move stock and go about our normal farming routine."

The hearing continues in Dunedin today.


Day 2
Where: Dunedin
Panel: Crs Duncan Butcher (chairman), David Shepherd and independent member Clive GeddesProposal: Change Otago's water regulations to prevent run-off in rural areas polluting the region's waterways.

Submitters: Colin Scurr, Nick Mackenzie, of Kyeburn Station, Hamish Cavanagh, of Hawkdun Station, Robert van Vugt, David Greer, Brian and David Wright, of Craiglea, and Travis Michelle, all represented by counsel Phil Page and Bridget Irving, environmental scientist Dr Dean Olsen and planning consultant Nigel Bryce.

Quote of day: "The current plan is too unclear and uncertain for us to sensibly apply it." - Taieri farmer Colin Scurr


- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

 

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