One Plan changes un­der way

Manawatu Standard - - News - JONO GALUSZKA

"We are still look­ing to get to the same place in the long term, but pro­vid­ing a more re­al­is­tic path in the short term."

Tom Bowen, pol­icy and strat­egy man­ager

Plans are afoot to make changes that would en­able farm­ers in Manawatu¯ -Whanganui to keep farm­ing while work­ing to­wards im­prov­ing their ni­trate leach­ing lev­els.

Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil de­cided in Au­gust to start look­ing at how it could change its One Plan – the doc­u­ment that gov­erns how nat­u­ral re­sources are man­aged in greater Manawatu¯ -Whanganui.

While the ma­jor­ity of the plan is un­con­tentious, a stick­ing point has been ni­tro­gen leach­ing lim­its for farm­ers.

Af­ter var­i­ous court bat­tles over the One Plan, the coun­cil was left in a po­si­tion where many farm­ers, par­tic­u­larly hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists in Horowhenua and Ruapehu and dairy farm­ers in Tararua, would be un­able to get re­source con­sents to op­er­ate.

At a strat­egy and pol­icy com­mit­tee yes­ter­day, the coun­cil de­cided to get fur­ther ad­vice on interim so­lu­tions.

Pol­icy and strat­egy man­ager Tom Bowen said the most press­ing is­sue was farm­ers re­quir­ing con­sents.

It ap­peared very few could meet ni­trate tar­gets set out in One Plan, which re­quire ni­trate leach­ing to fall to cer­tain lev­els over 20 years, but there was no fall­back op­tion for those who were still go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Ap­ply­ing the tar­gets in their strictest form would cause eco­nomic and so­cial ‘‘dis­rup­tion’’ well be­yond what was an­tic­i­pated when the plan was made, he said.

One op­tion was to ‘‘re­cal­i­brate’’ the tar­gets, which Bowen said would prob­a­bly al­low for higher lev­els of leach­ing in the first com­pli­ance year.

The 20-year tar­get would stay the same, as that would help keep changes to a min­i­mum, he said.

‘‘We are still look­ing to get to the same place in the long term, but pro­vid­ing a more re­al­is­tic path in the short term.’’

An­other op­tion be to sim­plify the tar­gets, mak­ing it eas­ier to get a con­sent, but still re­quir­ing the worst of­fend­ers to make big­ger changes, faster, Bowen said.

How­ever, both op­tions would prob­a­bly leave some farm­ers un­able to meet tar­gets.

Bowen said a way around that would be to is­sue a spe­cial kind of con­sent with a short ex­piry, as an interim mea­sure.

The over­all aim was to tweak parts of the plan, but stick­ing to its spe­cific goals to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity.

‘‘If we want to get it through quickly, it needs to be un­con­tentious,’’ Bowen said.

There was the pos­si­bil­ity of more le­gal ac­tion, but the plan was to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid that.

Coun­cil staff will also start re­view­ing wa­ter catch­ments.

Bowen said the re­view would take some years to com­plete, and would in­form wa­ter pol­icy and nu­tri­ent al­lo­ca­tion in the long term.

But the One Plan needed to be changed sooner, rather than later, due to the ex­ist­ing un­cer­tainty, he said.

The coun­cil plans to dis­cuss op­tions with the com­mu­nity.

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