Nitrates rules will hit farmers in pocket

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 07:37 23/12/2013

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Tighter rules around nitrates will hit most farmers in the pocket, a Mid-Canterbury farmer says.

Environment Canterbury commissioners this month signed off on the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan, which will for the first time put controls on the leaching of nutrients across the region.

Mid-Canterbury farmer Chris Allen said implementing the plan's requirements would cost farmers "thousands".

"I don't know if everyone's balance sheets can withstand a big hit," he said.

Under the plan, Canterbury is split into nutrient allocation zones, including where water quality outcomes are not being met, where there is a risk of them not being met and where they are being met.

All farms will need to create a nutrient baseline, which is the average of nitrogen losses from July 1, 2009, to June 30 this year.

Each zone will have different rules.

In some areas, those farms that increase beyond a stipulated leaching limit of 20 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare per year after January 1, 2017, will need a resource consent and to complete a farm environment plan.

Allen said all farmers would have to use the same programme and ensure they were all inputting the information correctly, which would cost time and money.

It would also hit farmers in the pocket if they needed a resource consent and a farm environment plan.

He would likely need to apply for a consent for his sheep and beef farm in a couple of years and imagined the majority of dairy farmers would have to.

"Nutrients and farming have just been a moving feast and things just keep on moving," Allen said.

Most farmers were in a holding pattern to see exactly what rules would govern their area as water zone committees completed plans, he said.

Allen stressed farmers wanted to see an improvement in water quality, but everyone had a role to play.

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