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Published: 2008-05-05 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is praising Taupo catchment farmers who have already cooperated with a new nitrogen discharge allowance (NDA) benchmarking process, and is reminding others that time is running out for them to submit information before a 30 May deadline.

Under the new management regime aimed at protecting Lake Taupo’s water quality, most farmers in the Taupo catchment are required to get the nitrogen run-off from their land benchmarked. The current focus is on those properties greater than 100ha.

“To date we have received information from many land owners to allow benchmarking of around 47,000 hectares – a bit over half of the required area - which is good progress,” said Taupo implementation manager Jan Hania.

Now the regional council is writing to farmers who have not supplied information, reminding them of their obligations.

The new regime which took effect last year - Variation 5 of the Proposed Waikato Regional Plan - requires most farmers in the area to have a resource consent for their farming operations. The first stage of the resource consent process involves getting relevant farms benchmarked to determine what their NDA will be.

Mr Hania thanked all farmers who had already met with Environment Waikato staff and were supplying information to asses their NDA.

“But we want to remind all concerned that, to determine whether you are farming within the boundaries of your NDA, you need to gather and submit the necessary information before 30 May 2008. This will enable you to at least have a draft NDA prior to this winter.”

Mr Hania urged affected farmers who had yet to begin the information gathering process to contact Faith, Derek or Jon at Environment Waikato’s Taupo Office (07 378 6539) to arrange a meeting to start the process.

Mr Hania said farmers should not delay becoming involved in this process as they awaited a decision from the Environment Court on the new rules. “As a court decision could be many months away, we require all relevant landowners to undertake the benchmarking process to allow a resource consent to be granted as soon as possible.”

He stressed Environment Waikato was very keen to work with farmers to help them through the benchmarking process.

“Farmers undertaking farming practices similar to those carried out during 2001 to 2005 are likely to be able to continue with these practices once benchmarked.

“Environment Waikato will be monitoring properties this winter and it is possible that enforcement action may be taken if there are signs of excessive grazing beyond 2001 to 2005 levels. This also applies to someone who has been benchmarked.”

Mr Hania said that, as outlined in recent newspaper articles, the practice of extra winter grazing is to be closely watched by Environment Waikato as this is the critical period of nitrogen leaching. High densities of stock grazing over winter provides the greatest risk of nitrogen leaching.

“Where winter grazing of cows is a new activity, or where winter stock numbers have increased significantly since the benchmarking period, it is unlikely that farmers will have the necessary nitrogen discharge allowance to continue winter grazing.”

He said the Government, Environment Waikato and Taupo District Council have invested millions in the project to protect the lake’s water quality. “We want to help ensure that the benefits of this investment are maximised and protected.”