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A new Otago Regional Council (ORC) catchment programme in the Owaka area has gotten off to a great start with about 40 farmers attending an inaugural field day on Tuesday (June 28).
Land resources officer Alice Webster, who was among ORC staff presenting at the field day on Cody and Nicola Hartvigsen’s property, was impressed with the turnout given that there are about 60 farmers altogether in the catchment, and most of them attended.
The new three-year programme will aim to improve water quality in rivers, lakes, and streams through communication, and sharing of ideas and knowledge on best management practices.
ORC land resources manager Susie McKeague said her team was keen to work with landowners to maintain and enhance the quality of the Owaka River by providing information and advice about on-farm practices that will minimise runoff and river bed disturbance, and maximise good water quality results.
A recent ORC scientific study of water quality in the Catlins highlighted that the Owaka River has healthy fish populations, but some slightly elevated nitrogen, phosphorus, E.coli, and sediment levels.
“However, the water quality in the Owaka is still much better than other rivers in Otago, and widespread change is not needed. Rather, the programme is about tweaking practices to lift water quality,” Ms McKeague said.
Ms Webster said farmers attending the field day were receptive to discussions about what can be done to protect water quality.
Mr Hartvigsen had thought carefully about the design of his dairy farm to maximise cow health and minimise effluent runoff.
“His large, 100-day storage pond and k-line system gives him plenty of flexibility to avoid putting out effluent in wet conditions. The design of his farm tracks also maximises cow flow so that they are less likely to stop and create mucky hotspots,” Ms Webster said.
The property was also fully fenced on both sides of the river to provide a buffer against runoff.
ORC will follow up water monitoring at specific sites in the area to help address any potential water quality issues or concerns.