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Published: 2010-06-15 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is committed to taking a strong partnership approach with farmers and local councils when it comes to developing new ways of protecting the environment and farming profits, says chairman Peter Buckley.

His comments come on the eve of this year’s Fieldays at Mystery Creek, which have a theme of "Innovation for Profit".

Mr Buckley said the regional council was putting major resources into protecting water quality in Waikato in response to a range of community pressures.

"The protection of water is essential for environmental reasons and to protect the natural resource base which supports the likes of agriculture and tourism in our region," said Mr Buckley.

After consultation with stakeholders, EW has developed a working draft of a new Regional Policy Statement (RPS), which aims to do more to protect water quality in our region. The finalised RPS and the Future Proof sub-regional development plan also aim to protect Waikato’s productive farming base, which is being reduced by rural subdivision at the rate of two dairy farms a year. High quality soils need protection, for the use of future generations, rather than being used for further rural subdivision, Mr Buckley said.

The development of a new RPS, something EW is required do as part of normal processes, is also relevant to co-management of the Waikato River with iwi.

EW will need to incorporate a new vision and strategy for the Waikato River – developed under co-management – into the RPS.

"The first vision and strategy is quite high level but it is due to be reviewed after a report on the river from NIWA later this year," said Mr Buckley.

"A reviewed vision and strategy is expected to outline detailed new water quality targets and methods for achieving them. We’ll then need to give effect to this through our Regional Plan."

Also, a Government decision is pending on how to give effect to a new National Policy Statement, which urges strong protection of water quality generally.

Mr Buckley said these pressures meant that this year’s Fieldays theme "Innovation for Profit" is extremely relevant.

"Clearly the pressures for stronger action to protect Waikato water quality are building.

"Our Fieldays stand this year will highlight ways of helping protect and enhance profits, whilst protecting and enhancing the environment."

Techniques to be discussed at the stand include:

· whole farm plans

· a new effluent management check list

· a Waikato-ized effluent pond size calculator

· the potential for farmers to take advantage of new opportunities under Lake Taupo rules and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Mr Buckley, himself a north Waikato dairy farmer, stressed that EW wants to be a true partner to the region’s farmers, working with them to improve the situation.

"Innovation – for both profit and environmental protection - is a key to addressing the water quality challenges we face.

"All of us involved in agriculture – including farmers, industry bodies, central and local Government, and iwi – need to work together constructively to foster that climate of innovation.

"A combination of science-based innovation, kiwi ingenuity and solid co-operation between all the stakeholders is our best bet for making good progress.

"It’s critical to protect our unique natural resource base of high quality soils, rivers and waterways."