Plans to develop high-country rules postponed

Environment Southland has postponed plans to develop high-country rules to prevent declining water quality.

The council is updating its Regional Water Plan to Water and Land 2020 policy and included in it is making hill- and high-country development in Southland a permitted activity.

This means farmers will need to meet conditions such as buffer zones around water and limits on developing steep slopes.

Council senior resource planner Fiona Young said the main thing for farmers to take from it was good management.

Hill- and high-country development, if not undertaken with good management practises, had the potential to affect water quality, quantity, erosion control and biodiversity, she said.

"We want people to be doing good planning around hill- and high-country development.

"The council does not want to stop development at all, it's about stopping nitrates getting into the water."

However, some people viewed the proposed changes as an extra hindrance to farming.

Federated Farmers acting Southland president Allan Baird said the extra paperwork required from farmers would add to the complexity of day-to-day farming.

The federation was working with the council to implement new initiatives but they became concerned when these initiatives made it more difficult to farm, he said. His biggest fear was that it would be rushed through without proper consideration. Plan change 13 - new dairy farming - put a lot of backs up in the farming community and he was not keen for a repeat, he said.

Nicol Horrell, Environment Southland councillor and chairman of the hill- and high-country development steering group, said it had worked hard to ensure people were updated with any developments.

However, farmers needed more information, he said.

At a council meeting on Wednesday, a decision on progressing to the next stage of the plan change, notification, was deferred because councillors felt more information was needed for those it most affected, he said.

Because the project had been on the backburner for a few years as the council focused on other projects, there was a need to get it back in the public, he said. 

The Southland Times