Media release

North Otago irrigators and ORC to jointly tackle water quality issues

Friday 16 May 2014

ORC and North Otago irrigation companies have formally agreed to work together to implement new water quality rules and resolve outstanding water quality issues.

The council has signed separate memorandums of understanding with the North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) and the Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company (LWIC). The Waitaki Irrigators Collective is also a signatory to both memorandums.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the signing of the memoranda so soon after the new rules in the Otago Water Plan took effect (May 1) underlined how committed North Otago irrigators were to helping achieve their successful implementation, and the rapid community acceptance of the principles which underpin the rules.

“For our part, we are demonstrating from Day 1 that we are prepared to work collaboratively with farming groups and others affected by the new rules to improve water quality where necessary and facilitate increased compliance with the Water Plan,” Mr Woodhead said.

The joint ORC-NOIC memorandum’s goals include:

  • Preventing degradation of surface waterbodies in the Kakanui catchment as a result of intensive agriculture.
  • Developing a shared ‘vision’ for water values in the Kakanui catchment.
  • Improving existing water quality in the Kakanui catchment where necessary.
  • Working co-operatively to better understand the issues and drivers contributing to current water quality.

The joint ORC-LWIC memorandum’s goals include:

  • Maintaining the current good water quality in the Waitaki Plains aquifer and connected surface water bodies and ensuring that Welcome Creek can continue to be used as a suitable habitat for salmon hatching.
  • Continuing border-dyke irrigation on the Waitaki Plains, provided good water quality is maintained.
  • Developing an appropriate consenting regime for farmers unable to comply with the new contaminant discharge thresholds in the Water Plan.

Mr Woodhead said oversight groups would be created to meet regularly and implement the actions implemented in the MOUs.

NOIC chairman Leigh Hamilton and LWIC chairman Chris Dennison said their shareholders understood the importance of working with ORC to ensure the successful implementation of the new rules.

“Having good water quality in our region is vital, not just because of its importance in ensuring our environment is healthy for future generations, but in sustaining our international reputation as a producer of export-quality food and beverages,” Mr Hamilton and Mr Dennison said.

The memoranda outline comprehensive processes relating to communication, water quality monitoring and analysis, problem-solving and education leading up to 2020.

Mr Woodhead said he was particularly pleased that LWIC was prepared to emulate NOIC’s introduction of an audit self-management programme involving the preparation and implementation of environmentally-based farm management plans.

“We are entering a new phase of an important and strategic partnership with irrigators in North Otago, which we hope their counterparts elsewhere in the region will want to emulate,” he said.

Note to media: Copies of the Memorandums of Understanding are available on request

For more information contact

Stephen Woodhead
Ph 027 280 1635