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Important feature . . . Improving water quality in the Wainono Lagoon is one of the goals of the South Coastal Canterbury farming regulations. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Farmers north of the Waitaki River can call in to the Waimate Event Centre today to get help with meeting water quality regulations.

Environment Canterbury will have staff there from 10am to 2pm to talk with farmers about their obligations under the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan.

The South Coastal Canterbury section of the plan took effect in September. That means farmers have new responsibilities to work within water quality limits and carry out good management practices.

ECan has sent farmers information packages with reminders about their obligations and guidance on whether they need a land use consent to farm. If they do, they must apply by March 1.

Land use consent is required on properties more than 5ha where nitrogen losses exceed certain limits, recognising differences between soil types.

South Coastal Canterbury zone manager Chris Eccleston said 318 landowners in the catchment had been contacted.

“These changes are part of our region-wide approach to improve water outcomes in Canterbury. For South Coastal Canterbury, improving the water quality at Wainono Lagoon is crucial and action is now required.”

ECan and industry bodies were available to help, Mr Eccleston said.

“Key steps to take are implementing industry-agreed good management practices on the farm, creating a farm environment plan, preparing nitrogen loss calculations, and then apply for consent. All these steps will help address the water quality issues in our zone.

“We realise this process is new to South Canterbury farmers and can be complex. That’s why we are here to help with one-on-one advice as well as local drop-in sessions.”

One was held at Makikihi yesterday and the second was today’s in Waimate.

The rules were developed after the Lower Waitaki South Coastal Canterbury Water Zone Committee, working with the community, recommended policies and regulations to achieve community goals for freshwater management.

The South Coastal Canterbury area’s major feature is the Wainono Lagoon and its extensive wetlands. The zone includes hill-fed, intermittent-flowing rivers and lowland springs from the Otaio catchment in the north to the Morven catchment in the south and the Hunters Hills in the west.

The Land & Water Regional Plan operates at two levels – a region-wide section and 10 sub-region sections. The latter’s policies and rules apply instead of, or as well as, the regional ones. The sub-region sections put the region-wide objectives into effect in the most appropriate way for their catchments.

Information on the steps farmers may need to take to comply is available online at www.canterburywater.farm