Selwyn Waihora farmers reminded of water quality responsibilities

Environment Canterbury today sent a package of information to many Selwyn Waihora farmers reminding them of their responsibility to meet nutrient management limits and to help them find out whether they will need a land use consent to farm this year.

The Selwyn Te Waihora section (Plan Change 1) of the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan, which became operative in 2016, introduced these limits and outlined the timeframe within which they would need to be met.

Selwyn Waihora Zone Manager Michaela Rees said 900 landowners in the catchment would require a land use consent to farm by July 2017.

“Many farmers are already doing the right thing or are on track to do so which is great,” she said. “They will need to apply for a consent to farm if their property is over 10 hectares in size, and their nitrogen losses exceed 15 kilograms per hectare per year, and/or any part of their property is within the Cultural or Phosphorus and Sediment areas,” Ms Rees said. “These areas are unique to the sensitive Selwyn Waihora catchment that drains into Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere.”

Michaela Rees said there were several steps farmers needing a consent were required to take, and Environment Canterbury and industry bodies were available to help. “Create a farm environment plan, prepare a nutrient budget, apply for consent, have your farm environment plan audited and plan for further nitrogen loss reductions. All these steps will help address the serious water quality issues in our zone.”

Flows in lowland streams and the Selwyn River have decreased, nitrate concentrations in shallow groundwater and lowland streams have increased, and the health of Te Waihora and local rivers needs improving.

“The whole community needs to address these issues and farmers have an important role to play. We are here to help them with community meetings, drop-in days and one-on-one discussions,” Ms Rees said.

Key water quality features of the Selwyn Te Waihora plan change

• Farmers are required to reduce their nutrient losses. The timetable for this allows them to make improvements to their nutrient management while maintaining farm financial viability. Where nitrogen loss rates are more than 15 kilograms per hectare per year, from 2022 farming activities must reduce their nitrogen losses – in the case of dairy, by 30%.
• A nitrogen loss allocation is available for the dryland irrigated by the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme.
• The role of drains in contributing nutrients, sediment and microbial contaminants to waterways and Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere is recognised, with stock access prohibition extended to drains.

For more information on the steps many farmers will need to take, go to www.canterburywater.farm