3 Aug 2017

Nitrogen allowances aim to improve lake quality

2:33 pm on 3 August 2017

New rules aimed at cutting the amount of nitrogen leaching into Lake Rotorua have been given the go-ahead.

Lake Rotorua

Lake Rotorua Photo: 123RF

Bay of Plenty Regional Council has unanimously voted to adopt a plan change that introduces rules for rural properties near the lake.

The rules aim to improve water quality by limiting the amount of nitrogen entering the lake from land use, and will mean rural properties including farms will be given a nitrogen discharge allowance.

Council chair Doug Leeder said it would go a long way to improving water quality by 2032.

"It won't improve the water quality overnight as this is a journey but it the first step, and part of a comprehensive suite of things the regional council and the commmunity are doing to ensure ... the quality attributes we are looking for are captured as soon as we can."

An agribusiness consultant who has been working with farmers in Rotorua, Alison Dewes, said the rules would hit some sectors harder than others.

"The dairy sector has been given higher leeching levels than the sheep and beef sector and the foresters have been locked in at a very low level, around two to three kilos of nitrogen per hectare."

She said forestry owners were likely to be most affected by the changes.

"Under this regime foresters won't have future land use versatility, one could argue that they're the worse off."

"There's no doubt it's challenging, some farmers depending on where they started and where they've got to get to [in nitrogen levels] can make system shifts to still reach the targets they're given, but for some others who hadn't intensified their farms such as sheep and beef farmers that were still running quite extensive systems... they're locked at that low level so for them they maybe feel like they're short changed, and they've got less room to move and less choice in how they shift their systems."

Mr Leeder said he acknowledged that it wouldn't be easy for some, but the outcome would be one the entire Rotorua community, local iwi and the visitors who come to visit the city, will benefit from.

"Yes, some of some of the requirements put on some of the pastoral landowners will be difficult ... farmers have got a part to play in this and some of the challenges in front of them will be difficult.

"But hopefully the transition from where we are today to 2032, with the use of better technology, better farming practices, we can get to where we want to."

Mr Leeder said the new rules would be notified on 15 August and any appeals must be lodged with the Environment Court within 30 days.

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