Community groups seek water quality support

Community-based groups seeking to improve water quality in their areas have asked the Otago Regional Council for support and funding.

The groups were looking toward the implementation of the council's 6A water quality and 1C water quantity plan changes, they said at the council's annual plan hearings in Dunedin yesterday.

Clutha Development Trust spokesman Hamish Anderson said the trust wanted to work with farmers to try to address the problem of water degradation in the district and help them understand the council's 6A water quality changes.

''It's still a bit of a mystery to a lot of farmers but it will work best if it's farmer-driven rather than an outside regulator.''

It was hoped the district would take ownership of the problems and groups could be set up to take stock of catchments and do water-quality testing.

To do this, the trust requested about $50,000 to start work in the Tokomairiro catchment, and council support and expertise.

''We want to bridge the gap between the Otago Regional Council and farmers.''

Pathway for the Pomahaka Group chairman Lloyd McCall said the group had formed to improve water quality in the river and had identified weed infestations in and around wetlands as a big issue.

It hoped the group and farmers could partner with the regional council to tackle the weed problem on 180ha of significant wetlands so they were ''in a good state for generations to come'', he said.

''It would be positive to do things together ... create a big family of the community, schools, towns' folk, farmers working toward a goal.''

While in its submission the group had applied for $20,000, it was an estimate of how much the work could cost and landowners would contribute toward the work, he said.

Landcare Trust's Janet Gregory said, as the weeds had not been tackled in many years, a concerted effort was needed to control them so farmers could then maintain the areas.

''Some issues are beyond the budget of a farmer.''

Federated Farmers policy adviser David Cooper said the council needed to ensure it had included enough funding in its plan to implement its 6A and 1C water plan changes.

An Otago Primary Policy Industry Group had been set up and it hoped that could assist with implementation.

Fonterra local government and community relations manager Anne Haira said it was committed to implementing the outcomes of mediation over 6A and hoped the regional council was as well.

It wanted to see the draft protocol, reference group and nitrogen loss review included in the draft plan.

Panel chairman David Shepherd said the draft protocol had been developed and would be considered by the council next month.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said 6A had only been operative for 15 days so it would take time for implementation processes to be developed.


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