Water plan outlined to farmers

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A picture is worth a thousand words.

The Otago Regional Council yesterday delivered on their goal to present a water management plan for the district which was relatively simple to interpret.

Plenty of graphic images were shown to about 50 farmers who attended a meeting at the Papakaio Community Centre which spelt out the dos and don’ts of land management practises under the new legislation of Plan Change 6A to the Regional Water Plan.

And the most simple message – if you see a problem, fix it!

This is the starting point, ORC officers said, to fix the obvious things like ensuring there are no dead animals lying in creek beds, no oil, grease or scum leaking into waterways, silage pit run-off is either captured or 50 metres from a waterway and effluent systems are compliant. Sediment mitigation the other big agenda item.

The term buffer was repeated several times in reference to protecting waterways from pugging, slumping and leaching. Richard Lord, ORC compliance team leader, informed farmers that silage stack run-off is 40 times more potent than effluent run-off.

Water quality in Otago is “generally pretty good” which made this region’s issues slightly different to the rest of the country.

In the Waitaki district, the exception was the Waiareka Creek which rated poorly. Since 2006 the level of nitrates has increased 21 fold as a direct result of land use intensification.

While council officers reiterated that they would be supporting farmers through the transition, Mr Lord said that some dairy farms could expect up to four inspections per year to help them become compliant.

Monitor farms are going to be set up to identify practises that link farm management to the quality of water leaving a property.

James White, ORC community liaison and education officer, is going to be based in North Otago to assist land managers to understand the rules, and identify environmental risks and solutions.

By LINDA MCCARTHY