The Gore District Council plans to exclude farming near a main well site to protect its water source.
Councillors unanimously voted, at an extraordinary meeting this week, to issue a notice of requirement for the designation of land around its Cooper's Wells site, at Knapdale, to be known as the Water Supply and Protection Area.
The will allow the council to place restrictions in the area.
It applies mainly to 14ha of land at present operated as part of a dairy farm. There is also a 4m-wide strip from the wells to the Mataura River.
The council plans to fence the area and exclude any farming activities, such as grazing stock or applying fertiliser.
Pasture growth will be managed, and grass cut and removed from the site. Eventually it is hoped to return the land to its natural state.
The council will look to acquire an interest in the land, either by leasing or buying it.
Gore District mayor Tracy Hicks said the council had been mindful for some time of the need to manage any potential risks to water quality in the Cooper's Wells catchment.
''With the intensification of land use in the area, the council has to put in place some protection to ensure the quality of water it draws from the wells.''
Mr Hicks said he appreciated the challenges the designation would present for the surrounding farm operation.
The council already owns the access lane to the site and will look to acquire an interest in the designated area by either leasing or buying it.
The designation would give surety to the council and future landowners, he said.
''Each time the farm has been sold, the council has had to negotiate with the new owner to minimise the potential for activities on the land to compromise water quality.''
The council had tried to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with the present landowner, Mr Hicks said.
Water quality has long been an issue concerning Gore residents. In the latest resident satisfaction survey, water supply and quality were rated as the biggest issue.
Council chief executive Stephen Parry said the council had commissioned numerous reports on water quality and quantity in the Knapdale aquifer since 1993, when it became aware the farm surrounding the wells was likely to be sold for dairying.
Latterly, there have been detailed studies into water supply and treatment options.
The reports consistently identify the need to ensure water quality at Cooper's Wells is not compromised by what happens on the land in the immediate vicinity, he said.
Landowners would be able to continue grazing the area during the notice of requirement process, he said.
Submissions will be open until November 12.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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