Nitrate rules relaxed to allow more irrigation

18:51, Apr 18 2013

A new water plan will allow 25 per cent more nitrates in the Hurunui River, allowing farmers to irrigate more land.

Environment Canterbury yesterday accepted recommendations in the Hurunui and Waiau River Regional Plan after months of public consultation. Commissioner Peter Skelton said it allowed for further irrigation, while maintaining river and water quality.

Increasing the amount of nitrates allowed in the Hurunui River would allow up to an additional 70,000 hectares of land to be irrigated, he said. Phosphorus levels, which were the main problem in the area, would not be allowed to increase.

Skelton said the river would be able to cope with higher nitrate levels without hurting its quality.

The plan prohibited irrigation dams anywhere in the Upper Hurunui and Waiau River catchments, including Lake Sumner, Forest & Bird South Island conservation manager Chris Todd said. However, he disagreed with the increased nitrogen load.

"This is very risky for the river. There will be the potential for an algal bloom every time there is a flush of phosphorus to set it off," he said.

From Saturday, objectors will have 15 days to appeal. However, they can only appeal on points of law.

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