'Most people will take ownership'

Members of Environment Southland's Water and Land Plan hearings panel listen to submissions during the hearing process last year. Photo: SRL files
Members of Environment Southland's Water and Land Plan hearings panel listen to submissions during the hearing process last year. Photo: SRL files
Three years, 900 submissions and five months of hearings later,  Southland’s Water and Land Plan ‘‘decision version’’ has been notified. Reporter Nicole Sharp looks at what the changes mean for Southlanders.

Farmers' two main areas of concern in Southland's proposed Water and Land Plan have been addressed in the ''decision version'' released by Environment Southland last week.

Winter grazing and cultivation rules were hot topics during the hearings process, and the commissioners have listened.

The hearing panel was made up of Rob van Voorthuysen (chairman), Edward Ellison (independent commissioner) and Environment Southland councillors Lloyd McCallum, Eric Roy and Maurice Rodway.

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said there had been a huge amount of interest shown in the plan.

''Hopefully, at the end of the day, most people will take some ownership.

''We really appreciate the time and effort all of the people have put in to the plan.''

Mr Horrell hoped that most people would look at the new plan and see the commissioners had listened. It had been significantly simplified.

''It does give us a platform going forward to meet the Government's National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.''

Environment Southland director of policy, planning and regulatory services Vin Smith said initial concerns raised by submitters had been addressed in the decision version of the plan.

Cultivation had been simplified, but it was still an important factor, Mr Smith said.

''You can cultivate up to 20 degrees or under 800m in altitude. If you cultivate on steeper land or above 800m it is prohibited.''

A uniform setback of 5m from waterways had been set.

Winter grazing had been changed from 20ha in Old Mataura or Peat Wetlands and 50ha elsewhere to 15% of the landholding or 100ha in total, whichever is the lesser amount.

''There's still quite a focus [about] when a consent is required versus when is not,'' Mr Smith said.

There was a vast difference between extensive and intensive, and the plan was trying to create a balance between ensuring the issues were addressed but also realistic for landowners, he said.

Stock, other than sheep, are required to be excluded from waterways, unless the average stocking rate is less than six stock units per hectare.

While there had been some concern about the accuracy of physiographic zones, it was decided they were sound.

However they were no longer embedded in the plan.

Existing dairying before June 2016 is permitted at current levels. However, new or expanded dairy farming is a restricted discretionary activity that requires a consent.

Urban discharges have also been addressed, as the discharge of contaminated water or sewage from a stormwater system is subject to a discretionary consent.

Now the plan had been notified, there is a 30 working-day appeal process whereby appeals can be lodged with the Environment Court.

''There will still be people unhappy,'' Mr Smith said.

All going well, it was hoped the Southland Water and Land Plan would be operative next year.

Cultivation had been simplified, but it was still an important factor, Mr Smith said.

''You can cultivate up to 20 degrees or under 800m in altitude. If you cultivate on steeper land or above 800m it is prohibited.''

A uniform setback of 5m from waterways had been set.

Winter grazing had been changed from 20ha in Old Mataura or Peat Wetlands and 50ha elsewhere to 15% of the landholding or 100ha in total, whichever is the lesser amount.

''There's still quite a focus [about] when a consent is required versus when is not,'' Mr Smith said.

There was a vast difference between extensive and intensive, and the plan was trying to create a balance between ensuring the issues were addressed but also realistic for landowners, he said.

Stock, other than sheep, are required to be excluded from waterways, unless the average stocking rate is less than six stock units per hectare.

While there had been some concern about the accuracy of physiographic zones, it was decided they were sound.

However they were no longer embedded in the plan.

Existing dairying before June 2016 is permitted at current levels. However, new or expanded dairy farming is a restricted discretionary activity that requires a consent.

Urban discharges have also been addressed, as the discharge of contaminated water or sewage from a stormwater system is subject to a discretionary consent.

Now the plan had been notified, there is a 30 working-day appeal process whereby appeals can be lodged with the Environment Court.

''There will still be people unhappy,'' Mr Smith said.

All going well, it was hoped the Southland Water and Land Plan would be operative next year.

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