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North Otago farmers got the chance yesterday to learn first-hand how their farms would be affected by proposals to preserve and improve water quality.
The Otago Regional Council organised meetings at Papakaio, to look at the Lower Waitaki Plains, and Maheno, for the Kakanui-Waiareka catchments and downlands.
They were aimed at farmers, growers and other interested parties so the council could consult before preparing a draft policy early next year on discharges from farm drains, run-offs and leaching.
Issues, questions and feedback from the meetings will be considered by staff preparing the draft.
The aim of the new policy is to give farmers more flexibility in the effect of their farming operations on water quality. The council will set quality levels and farmers will find their own ways to reach them, with the council monitoring the results.
The bigger turnout was at Maheno. About 40 people were in catchments where there were concerns about water quality.
The major issue was with groundwater, particularly in the centre and towards the coast of the North Otago volcanic aquifer, which would have lower standards for discharges than less sensitive aquifers.
Land resources manager Susie McKeague said in some instances, meeting requirements would be "quite challenging".
The Papakaio meeting was attended by about 30 people, many of them dairy farmers.
There also, the biggest issue was groundwater quality, as Welcome Stream was the only surface body coming under the Otago council's control.
The biggest concern was whether the limits on discharges of sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, E. coli and ammonia would be achievable.
Ms McKeague said the groundwater on the plains was generally good and the limits were aimed at maintaining that.
Other issues included how to test the quality of infiltration into groundwater, the effects of discharges from neighbouring properties and how limits were set.