Water rules welcomed by some

Southern councils and environmentalists are welcoming a swath of proposed regulations aimed at cleaning New Zealand waters, but some farmers say the tighter rules will hurt the rural economy.

Yesterday, the Government announced its "action plan for healthy waterways" to halt degradation of New Zealand's fresh water.

The proposal includes regulations for farmers, including restrictions on land intensification, improvements to "risky" farm practices, and more controls on changing land use to dairy.

There would be higher standards for some swimming spots, stronger protections on wetlands and streams and "support for the delivery of safe drinking water and improved management of stormwater and wastewater".

The cost of implementing the rules would be $148,500 over 10 years for a hypothetical sheep and beef farm on a rolling hill and $93,500 for a lowland dairy farm, the report says.

Speaking in Dunedin yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said new rules would not force farms to close.

"What's being announced today is actually a recognition that actually there is some fantastic practice being modelled by farmers in New Zealand.

"What we need to do is lift everyone to those standards."

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said the proposals outlined a "welcome" plan of environmental reform.

"They are asking us all to do more and to move faster, and we welcome the clarity the package provides."

It would need to analyse the proposals in detail to understand how they would affect its water work.

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the proposals would help it "continue progressing the environmental outcomes" the community wanted.

It was too early to understand what the affects would be.

Otago Fish and Game chief executive Ian Hadland said the plan was a "a good first step for waterway improvement in Otago".

Many of its guidelines would need to be made mandatory if the region was to see a noticeable improvement in water quality and quantity, he said.

Federated Farmers said the proposal would "throw farming under the tractor".

Its environment and water spokesman, Chris Allen, said nitrogen requirements for some made it "very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables".

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said the announcement put farmers in an "incredibly difficult position" and some would be questioning their future in the industry.

The plan will now go out for consultation.

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