Marlborough working group planned to tackle government freshwater policy

Farmers will need to keep stock out of waterways or risk a fine under proposed government rules.

Farmers will need to keep stock out of waterways or risk a fine under proposed government rules.

A new working group will be set up to help Marlborough decide its stance on the Government's proposed freshwater policy, including plans to keep stock out of streams and rivers. 

The Government is proposing a $2000 infringement fee for farmers who break the rules as part of a drive to keep waterways clean, and meet the target of having 90 per cent of rivers clean by 2040. 

The proposal would see dairy cattle and pigs excluded from lakes and rivers from July 2017, and staggered exclusion would continue until 2030, potentially including beef and deer.

It differs from the council's draft environment plan, which would see sheep, dairy cattle and pigs excluded from waterways but does not cover beef or deer unless they are intensively farmed. 

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A report to the Marlborough District Council said the council would have to consider reconciling the proposed Marlborough Environment Plan with the regulations once they were confirmed. 

The issue would be discussed at a planning, finance and community committee meeting on Thursday. 

Marlborough's water quality, with 94 per cent of rivers being of "excellent" quality, was second only to that of the Tasman/Nelson region, with Northland, Auckland and Taranaki having the least swimmable rivers.  

However, under the new rules the council would be expected to improve the region's water further. 

"There is therefore an expectation that the proportion of rivers and lakes that have excellent water quality from a swimmability perspective will increase," the report said. 

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Councillor Gerald Hope said Marlborough was in an "enviable" position and most landowners were responsible.

Marlborough had one of the smallest dairy herds in the country with 56 farms containing 21,000 cows and its farmers had been following council rules.

Financial penalties already existed for people who broke the Resource Management Act, so he did not think the fines would be an issue, Hope said.

A draft council bylaw saying permission would be needed for farmers to move stock along rural roads under the council's new traffic bylaw had already provoked a reaction from Federated Farmers, who branded the rule "ridiculous" and "unworkable".

Several said they would ignore the regulation and risk a $20,000 fine.

The closing date for submissions on the Government's Clean Water document is April 28.

 - The Marlborough Express


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