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Council works with farmers for better performance

Environment Waikato is promoting a wide range of approaches to improve the environmental performance of agriculture.

Responding to a campaign to restore streams which was published in the Daily Post by Fish and Game New Zealand, and an angry response from Rotorua dairy farmers, Resource Information Group Manager Tony Petch said Environment Waikato acknowledged the significant impacts agriculture had on water quality and soil resources.

“There is a clear link between agricultural development, agricultural intensity and poor water quality. This has been known for several decades. These links have been recognised by the farmers in the Reporoa area, many of whom have fenced and planted their waterways and take pride in the quality of the streams running through their properties.”

In some catchments of the Waikato, agriculture contributes large amounts of the nitrogen, phosphorus and bacterial load in waterways, he said.

Where significant agricultural development had occurred, fisheries were often degraded, with a lack of riparian cover, poor water quality, high suspended sediment and dams and culverts preventing natural fish passage.

While trout densities in streams like the Torepatutahi Stream at Reporoa were high, it was important that stock should not access stream banks and waterways, and that stream side plantings were maintained to ensure clear, cool water suitable for fish. High nutrient levels would encourage the growth of algae and nuisance weeds, and poor riparian shading would contribute to water temperature rises.

“We applaud the actions of local Reporoa farmers, who are advocating preventing stock from accessing any waterway within the next 10 years, and whose Streamcare groups are using Environment Waikato assistance to fence waterways.

Recognising the issues, Environment Waikato had promoted a wide ranging approach to assisting and requiring improved environmental performance of the agricultural sector. These included soil conservation plantings over 5000 ha in Taupo, 1000 in Reporoa and 1600 ha in the Paeroa Range.

“This scheme is widely supported by the Reporoa farmers, who help fund and maintain it and ensure its continued success. Project Watershed is another initiative addressing water management issues in rural areas. Environment Waikato recognises the strong support for this project from the Reporoa farmers.”

Sustainable Agriculture and environmental education projects were also underway with Landcare groups covering much of the Region. The Council had also launched a Riparian Protection Strategy which would release $10 million to help protect streams and waterways with riparian fencing and planting.

There would be more policy development relating to agriculture in the future and a close relationship had been developed with the agricultural industry to develop industry guidelines and joint educational programmes, he said.

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