Media release

ORC reacts to Minister’s Freshwater work programme announcement

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Hon. David Parker, announced the development of new national policy to cover such things as winter grazing and feedlots.

Cr Gretchen Robertson of the Otago Regional Council said Minister Parker was “Straight to the point in promising new rules will be in place to stop the degradation of New Zealand’s Freshwater and see a noticeable improvement in freshwater quality within 5 years”.

Cr Robertson said, “The Government has listened to the public cry for better water quality nationally. Otago is a Region that prides itself on high quality water resources and enjoys many economic benefits from these. We also have some serious water quality issues to face up to. Our recent state of the environment report on water quality paints a picture of deteriorating water quality in some key catchments. The time has come for practical steps to combat this degradation.”

Cr Robertson said, “I welcome Government suggestions made for change today. These tools will help, but I think that in many instances we have the tools we need right at our finger tips already. What we need is a strong will to act. That comes first and foremost from ourselves as individual members of the community. We have to show our leadership. Let’s be the ‘doers’ rather than those being ‘done to’”.

This particular issue requires careful development, in order to take into account regional differences. ORC Chairman, Stephen Woodhead said, “We were aware the announcements were coming and while there is not a lot of detail at this stage, I fully support the Minister’s focus on ‘at-risk catchments’.”

Cr Woodhead said, “I look forward to changes to the RMA that will result in more council planning more efficient and timely. The current plan change timeframes are too slow, costly and ultimately affect Council’s ability to adapt in a timely manner.”

Overall though, it is not regulation, RMA, NES or Regional Council Policy that will drive the improvement in fresh water quality. It relies solely on action by landowners, both urban and rural to manage their critical source areas that deliver pollutants to water ways. Landowners have the opportunity to take the lead and deliver improvements, manage their critical source areas and manage their winter grazing so there is less nutrient and sediment loss.

Cr Woodhead said, “No amount of talking by Government or Regional Councils will deliver the results we all want. While acknowledging the good work already achieved, my plea is for landowners to take control of this issue now.”

Key approaches announced today:

  • Among other aims are the consideration of directive legislation to halt the loss of wetlands and urban streams,
  • offering tools to control intensification,
  • creating rules on winter grazing and feed lots,
  • providing direction on nutrient allocation,
  • potentially creating a default regime on ecological flows; and
  • amending the RMA to allow integration of government legislation into Council Plans quicker.

Cr Stephen Woodhead – ORC Chairman

Emma Schranz – ORC Senior Media Advisor - 0276275894