Two of the proposals in the Government's ‘Next Steps for Freshwater’ consultation document are to:
Here's a link to the full consultation document, which covers a much broader range of proposals including technical changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, Iwi participation in freshwater decision-making and changes to the Freshwater Improvement Fund criteria.
Submissions close at 5.00pm on Friday 22 April 2016.
1. EFFICIENCY STANDARDS FOR WATER TAKES (see pages 22 - 26)
Water is currently allocated on a ‘first in, first served’ basis, meaning applications for water are assessed in the order they are received. This approach works when available water can meet the needs of all users. However, once water becomes scarce, higher value or more efficient uses can’t be prioritised.
New users cannot always obtain the resources they need to establish high value enterprises, because all the available water has been allocated or no new discharges are allowed. However, if users become more efficient in their water use and reduce discharges it will create room for new users.
Proposal: Require councils to apply technical efficiency standards in catchments that are at, or approaching, full allocation of water.
Technical efficiency standards will define the amount of water that would be used by an efficient user in different climates, soils, and end uses, for example, urban, hydro, irrigation.
2. STOCK EXCLUSION FROM WATER BODIES (see pages 19 - 20)
Proposal: To regulate to exclude dairy cattle on milking platforms from water bodies by 1 July 2017, and to extend this to land used for dairy support, beef cattle and deer at a later date (see table 2) to give these farmers time to comply. Sheep and goats will not be covered by this proposal as they do less damage to our streams and rivers.
Stock will only be nationally required to be excluded from water bodies on flat land and lowlands and rolling hills (< 15˚ slope) due to the practicality of fencing on steep country and the high costs relative to the environmental benefits. This would not override more stringent council rules and councils will still have the ability to apply stock exclusion rules more widely where they see this as necessary or desirable.
See Table 2 on page 20 of the consultation document for more details about the proposed deadlines for stock exclusion. In summary,
How stock will be excluded
Farmers will need to put up permanent fences unless there is a natural barrier preventing stock from getting to the water. Temporary fencing will be allowed where this is more appropriate, for example, for short-term grazing or where flooding is a problem.
Water bodies where stock will be required to be excluded
The national stock exclusion regulation would apply to:
Some councils already have some degree of stock exclusion requirement in their regional plans. There are problems with practical enforcement because the expense to councils and ratepayers of taking a Court prosecution can seem excessive. The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill currently before Parliament provides explicit provision for these proposed national regulations. It also introduces a nationally standardised infringement regime with instant fines.
Will riparian buffers be required?
It is not proposed to require a riparian buffer between a fence and the waterway. If managed well, riparian buffers can benefit water quality, bank stability, and biodiversity. However, the optimum buffer width and how it should be managed depends on the circumstances and aims. The high cost of managing riparian buffers (eg, planting, weed control) is not justified by the environmental benefits in all cases. Some councils are already working with farmers to promote riparian management in high value and at-risk areas.
Do you agree with the proposed requirements and deadlines for excluding livestock from water bodies? Why or why not?
MAKING A SUBMISSION
Details on how to make a submission are provided on pages 38-39 of the consultation document.