The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is to update farmers on proposed changes to the Otago Water Plan at a series of upcoming water quality forums.
The forums will be held in Cromwell on Tuesday September 13 (Presbyterian Church Hall); Oamaru on Monday September 19 (Kingsgate Hotel Brydone); and Balclutha on Thursday October 6 (South Otago Town and Country Club). All three forums run from 11am to 2.30pm.
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said the forums are a follow-up to similar events held in the three centres last year, where the new Rural Water Quality Strategy was presented and discussed.
“The strategy sets out how we propose to address farm discharges from runoff, leaching, and drains,” Cr Woodhead said.
About 250 farmers and other interested people attended last year’s forums and gave the council plenty of feedback upon which to refine the strategy. Many practical questions were also asked about how the strategy would affect farming operations in Otago.
Cr Woodhead said he hoped there would be similarly strong interest in the upcoming forums, which will update farmers on progress with proposed changes to the water plan for managing farm discharges. These changes will give effect to the rural water quality strategy.
The proposed rules would be introduced at the meetings, with information provided on how they are likely to affect water quality and farming practice throughout the region.
“They are designed to address water quality issues in a way that works for local people and the environment. They also encourage farmers to develop methods to manage their own farm discharges,” Cr Woodhead said.
This was an important element of the strategy and recognised that farmers are the experts when it comes to responsibly managing the land. It also put in place environmental safeguards to ensure water quality was not diminished, while at the same time ensuring that enforcement action was taken as a last resort.
Cr Woodhead said ORC’s approach to helping farmers deal with the discharge of water contaminants from their farms was unique in New Zealand.
“However, we can’t do this alone. We need active participation and co-operation from all water users if the development of the new generation Water Plan is to succeed for everyone’s benefit.”