ORC May delay rules on discharge six years


ODT Rural Life Wednesday 25 September 2019

Rules aimed at stopping Otago farmers polluting waterways may be delayed by six years.

The Otago Regional Council will today vote on whether to accept an extension to an amended version of proposed plan change 6A.

In 2014 the council made rules operative which meant more regulation on contaminant concentration of discharges and nitrogen leaching mostly from rural areas from April, 2020.

This year council staff identified there were ”significant problems” with the plan, including rules were ”ambiguous, unenforceable and uncertain and may result in many land users having to apply for discharge consents”.

The council voted last month to delay the implementation of some of the rules until 2023.

However, in a paper this week staff recommended a further three-year delay to 2026 in a revision called Plan Change 6AA.

Otago Fish and Game council environmental officer Nigel Paragreen said it seemed the intent of the plan change was ”always to move the goal posts so far back that the discharge standards become obsolete”.

”These extra three years will just make sure that happens.”

”It’s disappointing that it took so much time and expense to get to a point where the plan change is unceremoniously dropped.”

Anglers and hunters were waiting patiently for standards to take effect and expected environmental improvement, he said.

He hoped councillors would send a ”strong signal for action” at the meeting which conveyed a sense of urgency to improve water quality and aligned with Government freshwater plans.

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies said he was ”not entirely surprised” by the move.

New Government regulations meant the scope for the council’s water plan would need to be greater, he said.

”Our point of view is we need to be carrying on as we have been with good farming management processes.

Farmers were working as ”quickly as possible” towards better farming practices, he said.

Council acting policy and planning manager Anita Dawe said if the council’s water plan review was not completed by 2023, farmers would ”still need to comply with the problematic water quality rules from that date”.

”The new rules, which we will be consulting on later this year, and the parts of plan change 6A which are unclear and unenforceable would be in effect at the same time, which would create uncertainty without serving the intended environmental purposes.”

It would also allow time for Government freshwater rule changes to be finalised.