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Environment Canterbury has received several hundred submissions on its proposed Plan Change 7 to the Land and Water Regional Plan.
Planning manager Andrew Parrish says the exact number of submissions will be known in a few weeks, but it is ''safe to say, however, that we have never received anywhere near as many for any previous plan change, even to the original Land and Water Regional Plan''.
''This shows how interested communities are in important freshwater provisions that may affect them - with further focus now on the Government's Action Plan for Healthy Waterways as well,'' Mr Parrish says.
The plan change aims to improve fresh-water quality and outcomes, increase minimum flows of rivers and streams, and further reduce nitrate losses from farms.
A ''summary of decisions requested'' is now being prepared by Environment Canterbury, which will be publicly notified for further submissions later in the year.
Following this, a public hearing of submissions and evidence will take place before an independent hearing panel, probably in the first half of 2020.
Proposed Plan Change 7 to the Land and Water Regional Plan, the last to be notified with the Environment Canterbury Act still in place, is in three parts.
Part A is region-wide and concerns improving freshwater outcomes in Canterbury, protecting habitats of indigenous species, and providing for managed aquifer recharge, as well as establishing a new nutrient framework for commercial vegetable-growing operations.
Parts B and C relate to the Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora and Waimakariri sub-regions respectively, and have been developed by their zone committees.
Key changes introduced by Parts B and C include new water quality limits for groundwater and surface water; requirements for farms to further reduce nitrogen losses; increases to minimum flows for rivers and streams; a cap on the volume of water available for allocation; and requirements to exclude stock from a broader range of water bodies.
Plan Change 7 is not affected by the Government's proposals in the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways at this stage.
Mr Parrish says if the Government reaches the stage of gazetting a new National Policy Statement on freshwater before the hearing panel delivers its recommendations on Plan Change 7, the panel will consider the contents and relevance of the new policy statement when preparing its recommendations.
ECan says the Government's announcement includes actions already being taken in Canterbury, such as working with farmers to bring down nutrient limits.
He says Proposed Plan Change 7 is a further development of this approach, with specific rules in the Waimakariri as well as new region-wide rules. Land-use consent to farm, Farm Environment Plans (FEP) and independent FEP audits are already features of Canterbury's planning regime.
''We have in place rules around stock exclusion and winter grazing, and the farming community has responded to these as they have been introduced.
''ECan is considering the detail in the proposals, but overall there are no surprises and Canterbury is well down the track already with changes through its plans and the community's response.''