Farmers in the Waihao-Wainono catchment presented a compromise deal on nitrogen caps on Wednesday night.
Waimate District councillor and member of the Lower Waitaki-South Coastal Canterbury Zone Committee, Peter McIlraith, praised arable farmer Roger Small for alerting the committee to some farmers' concerns about nitrogen leaching rules.
Small, who farms on the banks of the Waihao River, said proposed rules would have set a 10 kilogram per hectare per annum nitrogen leaching cap placed on low-emitting farms. That could have prevented the catchment's majority of sheep, beef and cropping farms from converting to dairy.
"Basically whatever you were going to do in these catchments you were going to be locked in," Small said.
As a result, a reference group was formed to allow local farmers to revise targets among themselves. Arable farmer Colin Hurst helped to lead the group and said negotiations between low and high emitters had been difficult.
"You've got a group of people sitting around a table dividing up a pot of nitrogen, which represents money," he said. Nonetheless, he was pleased with the group's final agreement. Dairy farmer Bruce Murphy said he was also happy with "a fair outcome that was robustly debated".
Water scientist and ECan South Canterbury project lead Ned Norton said a cap of 20-35kg/H/p.a. was placed on high emitters depending on soil type. Some farms were currently leaching between 70 and 80kg/H/pa.
The high emitters' cap would be met by 2025, allowing small emitters to increase their nitrogen leaching from 10 to 17kg/H/pa by 2025.
- The Timaru Herald