Councillors divided over 'key messages'

Regional councillors are split over how a multimillion-dollar push to clean up the Waikato and Waipa rivers should be communicated to the public.

The council's land and water quality subcommittee on Tuesday debated what ''key messages'' should be used to describe the development of a plan change to the Waikato Regional Plan.

The draft plan change, which focuses on managing adverse effects from discharges to land and water, will cost the council about $1.8 million a year for 3 1/2-years.

Councillor Theresa Stark voted against endorsing the draft messages, saying too much blame was being put on farmers for declining water quality.

The document says non-point source discharges from farming, such as run-off from land, is the main source of contaminants for the Waikato and Waipa rivers.

The draft states: ''Many farmers acknowledge that farming impacts the environment and have taken steps on their farms to lessen their impact on water quality. Many farmers want clean water and to be part of the solution.''

In reply, councillor Lois Livingston said ''farming, not farmers'' was the cause of declining water quality and urged Ms Stark to set aside her farming background when debating the issue.

Ms Stark said her comments reflected community concerns.

The draft key messages will be sent to council's policy and strategy committee in February for approval.