Water plan supporters back dairy farm rules

Last updated 10:42 10/07/2013

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Environment Southland's plight to protect the region's water quality has drawn support from submitters, who say dairy farmers are undeniably Southland's worst polluters.

Environment Southland has set aside two days at the end of this month to deliberate over the 40-plus submissions about the proposed changes to the regional water plan before deciding if it will be adopted.

If the plan change goes ahead, all new dairy farm conversions would need to obtain resource consent before becoming operational. New applications would require a farm management plan, which would include a soil assessment, a nutrient management plan and a winter grazing plan.

Susannah Robertson said in her submission that dairy farmers were undeniably some of Southland's worst polluters and the regional council was being more than reasonable with the proposed plan change.

"The proposed restrictions are minor when compared with the effects of bad management practices on our natural heritage," she said in her submission.

"I want to be able to drink from and swim in streams and rivers safely and I want the same for my children and that to me is not too much to ask."

The Department of Conservation put forward a submission supporting the intent of the plan change. Inappropriately sited or poorly managed land use, including dairy farms, had the potential to significantly adversely affect water quality in ground, surface and coastal water in Southland, the submission said.

The Southland Conservation Board said intensification of farming, particularly dairy farming, was threatening water quality in waterways and estuaries.

Scrutiny of new dairy farm applications was essential to identify and minimise potential risks to water quality, it said.

Environment Southland policy and planning manager Ken Swinney said the proposed change would give the regional council an option to refuse new dairy conversions, which were believed to cause an adverse effect on the environment.

There had been cases where the regional council felt uncomfortable giving consent because the risk was too high, he said.

This included cases where highly organic soils were not suitable for intensive use or there was a risk that dairy effluent could get into groundwater.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said she could not comment on the plan change or submissions because the process was not yet complete.

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- The Southland Times

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