Joy welcomes draft dam controls

Last updated 07:23 17/04/2014

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Massey University ecologist Mike Joy is celebrating draft controls proposed for the Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme as a 100 per cent win for water quality.

Joy said the dual nutrient controls on nitrogen as well as phosphorus levels likely to be imposed on the $275 million project on the Tukituki River in Hawke's Bay were a triumph of science over politics.

"It means . . . any more intensification [of farming] cannot happen.

"This is huge," he said.

The board of inquiry's draft decision rejected single nutrient control measures in favour of managing both nitrogen and phosphorus levels.

Joy said that endorsed the approach taken in Horizons Regional Council's One Plan being applied in proposed conditions on the Palmerston North City Council's wastewater discharge consent.

The two councils are heading into a hearing later this year.

Horizons wants to control both phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the discharge to the Manawatu River.

The city council has proposed installing a $2.9m disk filtration system to lower phosphorus levels alone.

The single nutrient approach depends on the fact that algae requires both phosphorus and nitrogen to thrive to troublesome levels.

But Joy said it was impossible in river systems to rely on control of just one ingredient.

In theory, or in a test tube, it could work. But there was enough phosphorus in river beds and in runoff from hills to trigger algal growth, and allowing nitrogen and nitrate levels to rise to just short of toxic levels was a flawed approach

"What the board has done here is fantastic."

He said the interpretation of the draft decision that suggested the scheme could go ahead showed a complete misunderstanding of the nutrient control challenges.

Horizons managers were unavailable and declined to comment at this stage.

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said the dam approval, with its rigorous parameters, raised the bar considerably for environmental standards. He said the dam's promoters would have to measure up whether the project was still economically viable given the conditions.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council was discussing that issue yesterday.

Fish and Game has also welcomed the decision for setting a national precedent.

Chief executive Bryce Johnson said the draft ruling laid down a challenge - that any intensification of farming must not be at the expense of the environment.

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- Manawatu Standard


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