Setbacks focus of third water hearing

One metre or five? Two schools of thought

One metre or five? Two schools of thought

DISCUSSIONS on the best size for riparian setbacks on waterways from cropping land occupied a large part of the first day of the third hearing on the district’s freshwater plan. They included a comment from the commission chairman Mark Farnsworth that their goal was to produce a plan that would improve the environment rather than introduce punitive measures.

A recommendation that the setback distance from waterways should be one metre has been made by staff in their Section 42 report on submissions to the draft plan. This was supported by Horticulture NZ but a submission from Eastern Fish and Game wanted a condition that no cultivation should be undertaken within five metres of any modified watercourse, permanent or intermittent stream. Two written submissions from Manu Caddie and Murray Palmer also seek a five-metre setback.

Mr Farnsworth said they had spent an interesting morning listening to submissions on setbacks. The commission wanted to look at the effect on the environment rather than arbitrary figures. While he was not indicating what the commission would decide, he said there could be a five-metre default in the plan. That could be changed if a grower had a management plan that dealt specifically with how they were going to deal with flows, sediment and erosion. Fish and Game spokesman Eben Herbert said he would be supportive of that.

Arbitrary numbers not practical in all situations

The difficulty with broadbrush numbers like five metres was that they were not practical for every situation. The hope was that they would capture most of the things you wanted to capture without letting too much through the cracks.

Mr Farnsworth said what they were trying to do was to make a plan that improved the environment. Setting arbitrary figures did not do that. There had to be mechanisms to improve behaviours.

“We want to be proactive and try to put in place rules and regimes that are not punitive and are not arbitrary, but actually try to change behaviour and make a better outcome.”

Mr Herbert said the point he was making was that there were an estimated 250 growers who fell within this rule. The majority were already compliant with it. Yet there were issues with those current practices in terms of sedimentation and phosphorus in streams. The default rules would not achieve anything in terms of environmental improvement.

Earlier the commission heard detailed submissions from Horticulture New Zealand natural resources special adviser Christopher Keenan and supporting witnesses. Mr Keenan said Horticulture NZ was generally supportive of the plan.

Five metres unlikely to be effective

Horticulture NZ witness agricultural engineering consultant Andrew Barber supported a one-metre setback. Five metres was unlikely to be effective he said. There were other measures that could be more effective because they could be included in farm environment plans.

The hearing also heard comments about the effect of phosphorus run-off, permitted activity standards for nitrogen-based fertiliser discharge, requirements for farm environment plans, the definition of intensive farming and the possible high cost to farmers of fencing waterways and providing permanent stock crossings.

The hearing continues today.

DISCUSSIONS on the best size for riparian setbacks on waterways from cropping land occupied a large part of the first day of the third hearing on the district’s freshwater plan. They included a comment from the commission chairman Mark Farnsworth that their goal was to produce a plan that would improve the environment rather than introduce punitive measures.

A recommendation that the setback distance from waterways should be one metre has been made by staff in their Section 42 report on submissions to the draft plan. This was supported by Horticulture NZ but a submission from Eastern Fish and Game wanted a condition that no cultivation should be undertaken within five metres of any modified watercourse, permanent or intermittent stream. Two written submissions from Manu Caddie and Murray Palmer also seek a five-metre setback.

Mr Farnsworth said they had spent an interesting morning listening to submissions on setbacks. The commission wanted to look at the effect on the environment rather than arbitrary figures. While he was not indicating what the commission would decide, he said there could be a five-metre default in the plan. That could be changed if a grower had a management plan that dealt specifically with how they were going to deal with flows, sediment and erosion. Fish and Game spokesman Eben Herbert said he would be supportive of that.

Arbitrary numbers not practical in all situations

The difficulty with broadbrush numbers like five metres was that they were not practical for every situation. The hope was that they would capture most of the things you wanted to capture without letting too much through the cracks.

Mr Farnsworth said what they were trying to do was to make a plan that improved the environment. Setting arbitrary figures did not do that. There had to be mechanisms to improve behaviours.

“We want to be proactive and try to put in place rules and regimes that are not punitive and are not arbitrary, but actually try to change behaviour and make a better outcome.”

Mr Herbert said the point he was making was that there were an estimated 250 growers who fell within this rule. The majority were already compliant with it. Yet there were issues with those current practices in terms of sedimentation and phosphorus in streams. The default rules would not achieve anything in terms of environmental improvement.

Earlier the commission heard detailed submissions from Horticulture New Zealand natural resources special adviser Christopher Keenan and supporting witnesses. Mr Keenan said Horticulture NZ was generally supportive of the plan.

Five metres unlikely to be effective

Horticulture NZ witness agricultural engineering consultant Andrew Barber supported a one-metre setback. Five metres was unlikely to be effective he said. There were other measures that could be more effective because they could be included in farm environment plans.

The hearing also heard comments about the effect of phosphorus run-off, permitted activity standards for nitrogen-based fertiliser discharge, requirements for farm environment plans, the definition of intensive farming and the possible high cost to farmers of fencing waterways and providing permanent stock crossings.

The hearing continues today.

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