Dairy farmers in the Waituna catchment who have set up streamside paddocks for winter grazing will get one-on-one help from Environment Southland to prevent sediment and nutrients reaching the Waituna Lagoon.
The Council’s land sustainability and compliance staff made an aerial inspection of the catchment last week, along with a representative from DairyNZ.
Resource Management Director Warren Tuckey, who is leading the Council’s response, said the flight located areas on 45 properties where intervention was needed to avoid run-off from winter grazing reaching the lagoon from either the Waituna Stream or its tributaries.
Staff also found four silage pits leaking significant amounts of leachate, and water-filled offal pits that were also being used to dump general farm waste.
All the properties have been earmarked for a follow-up visit from staff to talk to the farmers.
Mr Tuckey said the flight and follow-up were among several steps Environment Southland is taking as part of its immediate response to deteriorating water quality, which threaten to “flip” the iconic Waituna Lagoon into a eutrophic state.
The Council is working in partnership with the dairy industry and other stakeholders, including Federated Farmers and the Department of Conservation, which has the official responsibility for managing the lagoon and the internationally recognised Waituna and Awarua wetlands.
Preparation is underway for a workshop on Monday that will bring together up to 60 scientists, landowners, dairy industry and conservation interests, elected members and council staff to discuss the state of the lagoon.
They will hear the latest scientific assessment of the lagoon’s water quality and sediments, look at options for remedial action and develop a preferred approach to manage water quality in the catchment. Their recommendations will be considered by Environment Southland at a second workshop next month.
Mr Tuckey said that the Council would be looking at measures to halt and reverse the worsening water quality in the catchment and the lagoon, with the ultimate goal being to restore the lagoon to a high quality state.
As well as working with landowners, the Council is looking at whether physical improvements can be made to the 140km drainage network in the catchment that would reduce the amount of sediment reaching the lagoon.