The Environment Court has now formally approved a new Waikato Regional Council policy aimed at protecting water quality in Lake Taupo, meaning farmers around the lake will need to apply for a resource consent to continue farming.
The implementation of the policy – known as Variation 5 to the Waikato Regional Plan – has been going on for some time, with a considerable amount of work already done by the council and farmers. However, finalising the policy has been awaiting sign off from the court following appeals by several parties who eventually came to agreement on the wording.
Now, following the Environment Court’s formal endorsement of the policy, the variation is due to become fully operative on 7 July.
If the council confirms that approach at a meeting on Wednesday 29 June, farmers in the Lake Taupo catchment will have six months from 7 July to apply for a resource consent to cover their operations. Once they have done that, they can continue farming as usual until their consent application is determined. If they fail to apply within six months, their farming activities will be unlawful.
“Variation 5 will help protect water quality in Lake Taupo by capping and reducing the amount of the nutrient nitrogen getting into the lake from surrounding land,” said the council’s on farm consents programme manager Natasha Hayward.
The variation sets a goal of reducing nitrogen input into the lake by 20 per cent by 2020. The capping or “benchmarking” of existing discharges from land-based operations, coupled with the introduction of consents for farming, is one of the strands of work being carried out to achieve this target.
The council has been working closely with Taupo farmers in recent years to benchmark nitrogen discharge limits each property must operate under. A report to the council’s regulatory committee in April highlighted how 97 per cent of the total pastoral area in the Taupo catchment had been benchmarked. The report said a large proportion of the catchment was well-positioned to gain a resource consent for farming once the court signed off on the variation.
“The progress we have made is a very clear indication that farmers are well-prepared for making their formal consent applications once this becomes a requirement from next month,” said Ms Hayward.
More information on how to make a consent application is available by contacting Natasha Hayward on 0800 800 401.