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Published: 2015-02-16 00:00:00

Waikato dairy farmers and their milk companies have been extremely proactive in applying for “grandparented” access to water takes under the region’s new Variation 6 policy, says Waikato Regional Council.

After talking to their suppliers, dairy companies are confident that all their farmers who needed to apply for the grandparented dairy shed water take consents did so before the 1 January 2015 deadline.

“This has been a fantastic effort by the 2600 or so farmers involved and their dairy companies, as well as DairyNZ and Federated Farmers,” said farm water project manager Amy King.

“The dairy sector’s efforts on behalf of farmers, including engagement with the council, have been simply outstanding. Our challenge will now be to get on with processing these consent applications as soon as possible.”

The high level of engagement in the applications process has meant that the work of the council’s farm water team has so far mostly been focussed on making sure farmers and milk companies have had the advice they need for their consent applications.

A consequence of this focus on working with farmers and dairy companies is that it will take a bit longer to process all applications.

“But we’ll certainly aim to do things as quick as we can to help give farmers certainty over the volumes of water they are authorised to take,” said Ms King.

“We appreciate the patience that farmers have had with the timeframe for issuing consents.”

The call for grandparented water take applications followed a push to implement rules under Variation 6 policies for managing water takes and their environmental impact. Dairy farmers can still take up to 15 cubic metres a day from bores or waterways for dairy shed water, subject to water availability, but need a consent if they want to take more.

While still needing to apply for a consent, farmers were guaranteed grandparented access to the level above 15 cu m/day they were using at October 2008, provided they met the applications deadline. The council introduced group bulk consent processing in various catchments to streamline the process and save farmers costs.

Other farmers who have expanded their farms or started new ones since October 2008 will have their applications for additional water take consents dealt with on a first in, first served basis in their catchments.

Ms King said indications are there have been a significant number of applications from this group of farmers as well.

She said any farmers who are still concerned about their water situation can contact the council to discuss their individual circumstances so they can explore options to gain lawful access to water. The contact number is 0800 800 402.

Advice on consenting is also available from dairy companies or by visiting www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/watertakes

Ms King noted that, if limited by water availability, there was also potential for farmers and others to:

  • improve water use efficiency so they can do more with the same amount of water.
  • transfer water permits between parties
  • harvest and store water at high flow times for use at other times.

More council information for farmers is available at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Community/Your-community/For-Farmers/