Chairman welcomes proposed plan changes, encourages public participation

Environment Canterbury chair Steve Lowndes has welcomed his Council’s decision to notify Plan Change 7 to the Land & Water Regional Plan (LWRP) and Plan Change 2 to the Waimakariri River Regional Plan.

“This is an important step,” he said. “We are letting our work with the communities to date go out for public submissions to be received on these very significant proposals over the next few weeks.”

Plan Change 7 includes proposed rules that cover the whole region and others that apply only to the Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora (OTOP) and Waimakariri zones.

“Something so wide ranging will certainly have an impact on people and communities throughout the region, particularly in South Canterbury and Waimakariri,” Steve Lowndes said.

“With the help of submitters involving themselves in the Resource Management Act process before independent hearing commissioners, we will be in an excellent position to address a variety of challenging water issues.”

Nutrient discharges addressed

The Waimakariri part of the plan change incorporates provisions intended to limit nutrient discharges from farms progressively over a number of decades.

“Without taking away from the rest of the plan change, these are particularly important proposals because they place new scientific modelling on nitrate within a planning framework and focus on managing the possibility of this contaminant heading towards groundwater under Christchurch city,” Steve Lowndes said.

“I therefore strongly encourage everyone in Canterbury to check out the plan change, see if it might affect them and if it does get a submission in. In this way, we will end up with the best possible outcomes the whole community can live with.

“Having said that, let’s remember that in terms of nitrate concentrations, for example, we’re dealing with the impact of generations of land-use change. Even if we put in place rules and see land-use change, it can take many decades for nitrate to move through groundwater.

“This particular plan change is focused partly on Waimakariri as part of the delivery mechanism of the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee’s Zone Implementation Programme (ZIP) Addendum.

Possible groundwater issues

“The scientific modelling around nitrate suggests possible issues in the distant future for groundwater under Christchurch.

“While we know from modelling studies that increasing nitrate levels under Christchurch is a risk, there is currently no measured evidence of any increase in nitrate in the aquifers under Christchurch.

“We will be working very hard to keep it that way,” Steve Lowndes said. “Much is being done – and has been done over the last decade - to improve the nitrate situation throughout Canterbury.

“We have put controls on land-use activities that could threaten water quality. For example, we control land use to the west of Christchurch (where most of the Christchurch groundwater recharge rainfall lands) to protect the city’s drinking water supply.

Strict farming rules

“We have introduced some of the strictest farming rules in the country to help address water quality issues. This includes requiring farmers to operate within strict nitrogen leaching limits and adhere to industry agreed good management practices.

“Higher-risk farming types are now required to measure and manage nitrogen leaching via a consent to farm. They are also required to have a farm environment plan and their performance against this plan is graded by independent auditors as part of Environment Canterbury’s compliance programme.”

“Plan Change 7 builds on these principles,” Steve Lowndes concluded. “I am confident it will contribute significantly to water outcomes throughout Canterbury.”

Submissions on the plan changes open on 20 July 2019 and close on 13 September.

Read a copy of the proposed plan changes as approved by Council for public notification:

Plan Change 7 and Plan Change 2 - What you need to know

Find out more about what this might mean for you.

Find out more about nitrate in waterways