The ODT’s quote of the day from the hearings on the Otago Regional Council’s proposed water plan was from Neil Smith:
“I worry more about the proposed water management plan and effluent than I do about my mortgage”
Worrying about effluent isn’t unusual and it’s not a bad thing. We ought to be concerned it and the impact it could have on water quality if not managed properly.
However, most of us do what is required to manage effluent and ensure we are well within the rules.
The proposed changes to Plan 6 are a different matter because farmers don’t think it is possible to keep within the limits.
ODT reports on the hearings show farmers are concerned about the viability of their operations under the proposed changes:
North Otago farmers yesterday queued up to tell the Otago Regional Council (ORC) they could go out of business if the council did not alter proposed changes to water quality rules. . .
Former North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) chairman Jock Webster said without irrigation schemes, farmers in the area would still be at the mercy of a historically drought-prone region.
Mr Webster said farmers had invested heavily in irrigation, but had also had to increase productivity, in order to pay for watering systems.
He said those who were part of the NOIC irrigation scheme already had farm environmental plans, which had resulted in better awareness of water quality. . .
. . . However, he added that the varying nature of soil and particularly sub-soils in the area meant they could be eroded easily during high rainfall, leading to poor water quality.
“I do not believe those who drew up the water plan understand the catchment sufficiently to write up sweeping rules and conditions that may cover the whole of the Otago area.
“There is no issue with water quality in the Waitaki Valley, and we have got some good things happening, but there is no way we can meet some of the standards.
“You cannot change nature.”
And nature isn’t perfect anyway. Another quote of the day:
“Recently we had water tests taken to check how our farm will meet the proposed levels … They show that the water quality coming out of the spring was poorer than further down the drain. The spring water itself does not meet the required limits” – Jeff Thompson
If spring water doesn’t meet the limits the limits are unreasonable.
There is also concern over uncertainty in the plan and the lack of tools which farmers can use to measure water quality.
My farmer was one of those who submitted yesterday. He likened the impact of the proposed plan to being expected to drive within the speed limit in a car without a speedometer.
No-one is arguing against the intent of the plan and the need to have good water quality.
The concern is that proposed changes are based on theoretic modelling which doesn’t take into account the nature of the soils, expects compliance when there are no measurement tools and imposes limits which are impossible to meet.