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Published: 2012-11-15 00:00:00

The Waikato is well-advanced in tackling key land and water quality issues, says the regional council’s land and water quality subcommittee chair Norm Barker, who is a strong supporter of various parties working with the council to address areas of concern.

Cr Barker, a South Waikato dairy farmer, was commenting after the release of the Land and Water Forum’s final report on freshwater management in New Zealand. The forum – involving discussions amongst a wide range of interested groups - addressed issues such as limits on discharges to water from land, and the right to take water for various uses.

Amongst its recommendations, today’s report urged management decisions be made on a local catchment basis within national frameworks and bottom lines from central Government, and for actions over water take consents.

“We have already taken action on a variety of fronts to address these types of issues and are planning more in discussion with our iwi partners and stakeholders,” said Cr Barker.

“We have a very strong commitment to engaging with the wider community to find the right way forward on water quality issues and land management.”

Group manager land and water Dr Tony Petch, who participated in the forum as an “active observer”, said the council’s policy work and initiatives on land and water management issues included:

  • Variation 5 to the Waikato Regional Plan has had major success in reducing nitrogen inputs into Lake Taupo from surrounding farmland and other sources.
  • Variation 6 has introduced a new regional water allocation regime designed to support priority uses for water and the environmental health of waterways.
  • The council is working closely with iwi and the Waikato River Authority to implement a co-management regime focused on the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers.
  • Work is beginning on a regional plan change for the Waikato and Waipa rivers – this will include looking at limits and targets for discharges from land to water. Plan changes related to other rivers will be considered later.
  • The land and water quality subcommittee was formed recently to provide a council focus on land and water quality management in recognition of the importance of these resources to the region’s economy and way of life, and the complexity and wide-ranging nature of the issues involved.
  • A trial system for monitoring compliance with dairy effluent rules designed to protect waterways is being implemented this season. It involves more ground-based work with farmers to identify and fix problems.

Dr Petch said that in recent years there had been major improvements to “point source” discharges to waterways from industry and urban centres. The agricultural sector was also working closely with the council to reduce farming’s impact on waterways. “Many farmers have put a lot of effort into lifting their game and we’ll be co-operating further to make additional gains.”

He said council staff would examine the forum’s recommendations closely to see what else the Waikato region could take on board for the future.

Cr Barker, meanwhile, said the council saw value in the forum’s approach of getting multiple parties around the table to discuss the way ahead.

“We certainly want to keep engaging closely with the wider community, local iwi and stakeholders to get things right for our area. It’s important we have Waikato solutions for Waikato issues driven by the regional community.”