Farmers in South Canterbury between the Ashburton and Rangitata
Rivers, have only until 24 October to make submissions on Variation
2 to the Environment Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan
(pLWRP), which will affect farming in the area significantly.
With this in mind, we have produced a very brief overview of
some key features of the Variation. They show that farmers can be
significantly affected by the Variation and should make further
inquiries to protect their positions and make sure they don't
miss this limited opportunity to have their say.
Variation 2 relates specifically to the Hinds/Hekeao Plains
area and is Environment Canterbury's response to its assessment
that the area's water resources are under threat from over
allocation and contamination by nutrients like nitrogen contained
in farm runoff.
This Variation sets specific water quality and quantity targets
and limits for the area, along with rules and policies designed to
help to achieve those targets. (See Section 13 (Ashburton) of the
proposed Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, which this
Variation radically changes). Although "proposed", the
rules and policies will take immediate effect alongside the
"general" rules of the pLWRP.
The Hinds/Hekeao Plains area
The Hinds/Hekeao Plains area consists of the Hinds River/Hekeao
catchment, and the plains between the Rangitata and
Hakatera/Ashburton River. This is split into three smaller zones to
which certain rules apply (Plains, Upper and Lower). (See below
Variation 2 planning boundary)
This Variation sets a number of limits for the Hinds/Hekeao
Plains Area on how much "nutrient" can be lost into
ground and surface water from farming, and how much water is
available to be taken from ground and surface water for uses such
as irrigation, community drinking supply and other purposes.
Its assessment is that the nutrient being lost and the water
that can be taken under existing consents is more than the
catchment can accommodate. The Variation therefore not only imposes
rules that largely prevent increases in nutrient-generating
activities (like farming) or the amount of water taken above the
specified limits, but it also includes targets to be met through
policies and rules to reduce nutrient loss and water allocation. It
further includes rules aimed at protecting water bodies from damage
by stock, diversions and other activities in or near the beds of
lakes, rivers and wetlands.
Overall it considerably tightens controls on farming and
related activities that ECan considers put water quality and
quantity at risk, by providing area-specific rules and controls
that override the general rules of the current pLWRP. Some of the
key changes are:
Stricter rules for the land use of farming to control loss of
"nutrients" like nitrogen, phosphorous and ammonia.
Exclusion of stock from waterways, wetlands and lakes;
Tighter limits on the take and use of ground and surface
Prohibiting water transfers altogether;
Differing limits for nutrient loss and water takes, depending
The Upper Hinds/Hekeao Plains area is assessed as being under
less stress from nutrient; and the Lower Hinds/Hekeao Plains is
assessed as being at greater risk.
For example, while larger farming activities in the Upper area
can avoid consent requirements by complying with strict controls
and conditions set out in the plan, in the Lower area, consents
will basically be unavoidable for all larger properties after 1
January 2017. In all areas increases above the baseline generally
become non-complying activities, making it very hard to get
consent. In most cases this effectively prevents new farm
development or conversions. However, small farming activities can
avoid these issues. For example for the "land use" of
farming, small farming activities (below 5ha) will be permitted if
they can keep their nitrogen losses below 20kg/ha/annum or at or
below their baseline loss for 2009-2013.
Area-specific rules for water take and use are also included,
with the prohibited activity status generally being imposed on
takes and uses that do not comply with limits for the applicable
areas. These are only some of the new restrictions proposed.
The submission period on the Variation closes at 5:00pm
on Friday 24 October 2014 and you must make a submission
before then if you want to comment on or oppose these changes.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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