Reminder over stock in waterways

The North Otago Irrigation Company is reminding shareholders of their responsibilities in regards to stock in waterways under their environmental farm plans.

In a newsletter to its roughly 170 shareholders  the company explained  it had had a policy for the past several years that  cattle or deer  be  excluded from waterways.

Under the policy any farm where cattle and deer were "not excluded" from waterways and wetlands "will automatically fail the audit", regardless of how it performed in other audit areas.

Audits are completed on each farm that is part of the company’s irrigation scheme every three years on a rotational basis,  the exception being if a farm did not meet the required standard, if there was a new manager or owner, or if land use had changed.In those cases, an audit was carried out every 12 months.

Farms are graded on a scale of one to five. One is the highest and five the lowest.

In March, the company contacted three shareholders about stock being in waterways and in the newsletter, reminded farmers to be "fastidious" in regards to the practice.

North Otago Irrigation Company environmental manager Dylan Robertson said many farmers had sought clarification on the policy of stock in waterways, which had in turn been simplified by the company.

"Farmers are always calling for clarity on this, but they’re not getting it. We basically decided we’d take an effects-based approach, like the Otago Regional Council. If the stock is in water and that’s connected downstream to something that’s a creek or a river and it’s agreed it’s a creek or a river, then that water is going to be a pathway for anything getting in. To have stock in that water is going to cause an issue, so that’s what we’re basing it on," Mr Robertson said.

"Last year we found that our farm plans, some people were finding them a little bit hard to read, basically. One thing we made a must-do was that you cannot have cattle or deer in waterways. As a result, some of these areas had to be defined as waterways ... It’s probably more about the goalposts being shifted rather than anything getting worse."

North Otago Irrigation Company chief executive Robyn Wells said as waterways were not defined by the regional council, farms where stock were found in waterways were not considered as being "non-compliant" with its regulations.If a farm did not meet audit requirements the company could restrict a farm’s water supply, Mr Robertson said.

daniel.birchfield@odt.co.nz  

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