New water quality discharge rules in the Otago Water Plan will become operative on May 1 after the Otago Regional Council last week approved Plan Change 6A in its final form.
The Environment Court issued a Consent Order on February 28 incorporating amendments to the plan change, which emerged from a mediation process involving the council and appellants of the council’s original decisions on 6A.
Council approval of the mediated plan change was the last step needed to fully incorporate the new rules into the Water Plan.
The plan change sets out an effects-based approach to managing discharges to water based around limits and targets, with a focus on controlling contaminant discharges, rather than regulating the land use activities that create them.
Discharge thresholds are set for common contaminants entering waterways, and discharges within those thresholds are classed as permitted activities. Land managers are given flexibility and the opportunity to meet the thresholds as they see fit.
ORC director policy, planning, and resource management Fraser McRae said that although the plan change had gone through a mediation process, the key focus of the rules was unchanged: maintaining and improving water quality where necessary to ensure that waterways are fit for recreational use and food gathering.
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the Environment Court’s acceptance of the amendments made to the plan change through mediation and the council’s ratification of the plan change ended a long and constructive process of consultation and negotiation with the community.
“Now that this phase has come to a close, another important phase of implementation and education is about to begin,” Mr Woodhead said.
“I am confident that many landholders, based on the feedback we have gotten from them throughout this process, will be pro-active about ensuring their properties comply with the new contaminant discharge thresholds which come into effect from April 2020.”
“The transition time gives farmers and foresters enough time to work together to assess the individual and joint effects of their operations on water quality in local catchment areas. If they find any adaptations are needed to comply, they have plenty of time to put them in place,” Mr Woodhead said.
The council would run an extensive liaison programme with Otago farmers and foresters to help them understand the new rules; advise them on where, when and how to sample; and assess water quality on their properties; and to highlight best practice for reducing contaminants entering local waterways.
“For those for whom complying may be more difficult, our staff and other primary industry advisors will work supportively to guide and educate them about the practices they may need to adopt to comply,” Mr Woodhead said.
A stakeholders forum and a series of roadshows throughout the region will be held over the winter months to help landholders understand the rules. Council staff are preparing a range of factsheets, guides, and web-based advice which will be available at these events. The long-term water quality liaison programme will follow on from the roadshows.
For more information contact
Ph 027 2801635
Otago Water Plan
Director policy, planning, and resource management
Ph 0800 474082 or 0274 900903