Print this page
Friday, 31 May 2019 11:11

New council rules tough on farmers

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Work has begun on Dave Ashby’s Fernside dairy farm. Work has begun on Dave Ashby’s Fernside dairy farm.

New environmental management rules for the Canterbury Regional Council’s Waimakariri Zone will be tough for farmers, says the chairman of the Waimakariri zone committee, Dave Ashby.

“It’s going to be challenging for every farmer, and it’s going to cost money,” he said.

The committee presented its zone implementation programme addendum (ZIPA), to ECan in December. It includes 93 water management recommendations which will be reflected in the sub-regional change to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan, now being developed to go out for formal public consultation in late June.

Ashby calls it “probably one of the clearest and toughest of any ZIPA produced by any of the zone committees”.

“It is focussed on the environment, biodiversity and cultural aspirations, with little wriggle room for more intensive agricultural development within the zone.”

Ashby, a dairy farmer in the zone and an environmental consultant certified to audit Farm Environment Plans, said the committee’s role is to develop recommendations which reflect the views of the community.

“It’s very tough for farmers but it recognises what the community wants and it’s not the end of the world.”

The zone covers a swath of Canterbury north from the Waimakariri River including the Ashley and other rivers and the towns of Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Oxford. 

Ashby said the zone differs from others because of the large amount of heavy soil at the eastern end with a lot of freshwater springs and creeks, plus saltwater estuaries. Its sizeable urban and peri-urban populations add to water quality issues.

The ZIPA divides the zone into a nitrate priority area, where nitrate levels are the main concern, and a runoff priority area where phosphorus, sediment and EColi are the main issues.

It recommends that all farmers in the zone reach baseline good management practice (GMP) by 2025. 

Within the nitrate priority area it calls for a further 15% nitrate reduction by dairy farms and 5% by others by 2030. 

The nitrate area includes the Silverstream catchment, which Ashby describes as “the canary in the coal mine”. To reaching GMP would require cuts of 15-40% across much of the area but the Silverstream catchment needs a reduction of 66%, he said.

Meanwhile, Ashby said several initiatives are underway including biodiversity projects, a three-year infiltration trial on the Silverstream (a possible precursor to a managed aquifer recharge scheme) and a trial sedimentation trap on the Cam River.

“Our ZIPA talks are hot on ongoing monitoring and measuring -- getting a whole lot of data about where things are going. 

“There’s been a lot of modelling but we need to know what is actually happening with nitrates, phosphates and EColi.”

Tree planting

In managing the environment, farmers must ‘walk the walk in order to talk the talk’. 

So says dairy farmer Dave Ashby, now investing heavily in environmental improvements on his own 400-cow farm. 

That includes taking part in the Easterbrook community planting scheme aimed at transforming a 1.8km stretch of the Easterbrook stream. This rises from a spring on his farm and forms part of his boundary.

Ashby and a dozen other farmers and lifestyle block holders are helping to pay for this with ECan. It is expected to cost $150,000 to $200,000.

The heavily sedimented stream is being dug out and bunded and will be fenced off to prevent stock access. The banks will be planted in natives in late winter or spring.

More like this

Take us with you — Editorial

OPINION: According to a newly released Rabobank report, New Zealand farm businesses need to get ready for the full cost of environmental policies coming down the track as they make future investment decisions.

EU waste

OPINION: This old mutt was interested to read a recent New York Times expose of the European Union’s agriculture subsidy programme.

A lesson in political science

The Zero Carbon Bill has just been passed into law, but not without significant misgivings from across the farming sector.

RMA not good enough

New Zealand's natural environment is now much more degraded than when the Resource Management Act was developed in 1991.

» The RNG Weather Report

Featured

Making it OK to ask for help

Meat processing company Alliance has started an employee support programme aimed at getting colleagues to look after each other and keep an eye out for possible mental health issues.

 

Johnstone bows out on top

When Lachie Johnstone first started on the board of Farmlands 19 years ago the rural services cooperative ran 32 stores with a turnover of $280 million.

‘Useful’ recruitment tool

Employers say a Government-backed free website, Work the Seasons, is becoming a useful part of their seasonal recruitment toolbox.