Ecologic Foundation
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Addressing farm runoff in the Waikato

Nutrient-enriched waters flowing out Lake Whangape in the Waikato region, New ZealandCatchment care

Following our legal action in 2005 (see below), Ecologic has been involved in discussions with Federated Farmers and Environment Waikato (EW) about how to make progress on nutrient runoff and related issues. We suggested trialling a Catchment Care approach, based on integrated catchment management (ICM), to get farmers and other stakeholders actively involved in addressing diffuse water pollution.

EW has included funding for an ICM programme, in at least two catchments of approximately 100 properties each, in its Long Term Council Community Plan 2006-2016, plus funding to monitor compliance with EW’s permitted activity rules. At the Dairy3 conference in early April 2006, Ecologic presented its ideas on how catchment care should work.

Download Ten Steps to Catchment Care.

EW has indicated it will assess by the end of 2008 whether the approach is working. If so, it will extend it to other parts of the Waikato region. If not, rules on intensive farming are likely to be required. 

Ecologic’s legal action on the Waikato Regional Plan

In June 2005, the Environment Court convened to hear Ecologic’s appeal on provisions in the Waikato Regional Plan dealing with water pollution from farm runoff. We were asking for rules that, for sensitive water bodies, would require most farmers to have approved farm plans to address nutrient and sediment runoff. 

When the hearing convened, other parties raised a legal question as to whether Ecologic’s proposed rules for nutrient management went beyond the scope of our 1998 submission.  Before even getting to any scientific evidence, the Court ruled against us, saying that Ecologic’s appeal on those issues could therefore not proceed.

However, before the hearing, farmers and the regional council agreed on significant new rules on keeping stock out of sensitive water bodies - these are now in place and are helping to protect many waterways, including all river margins within 2 km of the coast.  We have also indicated to Environment Waikato and the Court that we believe the council's regional plan provisions are ultra vires (against the law) because they are allowing practices that cause specific standards in the Resource Management Act to be breached.  This has led EW to initiate the catchment programmes described above.

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