1 May 2014

Payouts for farmers reducing pollution

3:45 pm on 1 May 2014

Farmers in the Rotorua Lakes catchment who take steps to reduce nitrogen run-off into the lakes, will be in line for some financial compensation.

Nutrients from surrounding farms are one of the sources of pollution in the lakes.

Cows grazing on rolling farmland on the shore of Lake Rotorua.

Cows grazing on rolling farmland on the shore of Lake Rotorua. Photo: NZ PHOTO

The Government and local bodies have re-allocated funding in the programme to clean up the lakes to a $48 million incentive scheme for landowners.

Bay of Plenty regional council natural resource operations manager, Warwick Murray, says they'll get payments to help with the cost of land use changes to reduce nitrogen levels.

"Most of the money will be paid out for agreed permanent reductions in nutrient discharge below their allocated amount, so every land-owner will be allocated a limit to how much nitrogen they can discharge," he says.

"If they agree to go below that limit, then we will pay them a negotiated amount for every kilogram of nitrogen per hectare that they're able to reduce."

Big challenge to reduce nitrogen run-off

Rotorua farmers are working with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and other stakeholders to develop draft rural land use rules around nitrogen.

Wendy Roe, who chairs the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective, with 35 farmer members, said it was likely that nitrogen losses from pastoral land would need to be halved to meet the overall target.

"It is a tough target and there are some farmers that don't believe they will be able to make it. There are some farmers who are confident they will."

Ms Roe said a lot was uncertain because the regional council was still trying to find a way to fairly and equitably determine what those targets were and every farm had a different operating system.

"Some farms may be able to change their stocking rate - fewer cows or animals per hectare, or reduce the amount of fertiliser they use. Some may plant trees on less useful land, some farmers are looking to land use change or complete change of the way they do their farming".

Ms Roe said she believed many farmers in the catchment were still uncertain about what they were going to do because they had not engaged in the process.

"Hopefully this announcement and public meetings, a flyer to come out from the regional council shortly and our own communication systems will get those people more involved."

Ms Roe said many farmers had already taken practical steps to reduce nutrient losses with all streams fenced off and stream banks planted up.

She said farmers were also trying other nutrient containment methods such as stand-off pads and sediment detention bunds.