Water problems well-known

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The water quality of Lake Clearwater is under investigation.

Environment Canterbury has come out fighting in response to recent criticism of water quality by environmental group Greenpeace, saying it has always acknowledged the extent of the water quality challenge in Canterbury waterways.

ECan science director Dr Tim Davie says it was Environment Canterbury’s science that recognised the scale of the problem, which has led to significant investment from the regional council and the community to improve the situation.

“There is no simple solution. We have called on a vast range of scientific expertise to help us navigate the issue.

“All this work has been captured in the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan to which the whole community has contributed and is continuing to implement.

“This is a long-term plan that is gradually turning a very large ship around,” Dr Davie said.

“It is ironic that the latest Greenpeace salvo against the Canterbury community stems from a research paper by Dr Joy that relies heavily on Environment Canterbury scientific publications for its technical analysis,” he said.

“Those Environment Canterbury publications clearly point to the scale of the water-quality problem and the amount of remediation required.”

ECan chief executive Dr Stefanie Rixecker said $60 million in ratepayer money had been invested over the last decade in a framework to improve water quality throughout Canterbury.

“Limits on the amount of nitrogen farms can leach have been in place since 2012,” she said.

“With the input of our water zone committees and local communities, these limits have been tightened further in particular catchments – for example, a 30 per cent reduction in nitrogen losses from dairy farms in Selwyn Te Waihora by 2022.

“Farmers are required to work to industry-agreed good management practices and to have auditable farm environment plans.

“We work closely with the rural community and carried out a successful land use consent to farm campaign to ensure farmers understand and can implement these requirements.

“As well as regulatory measures, there are many non-regulatory actions that farmers are taking to make a difference to the environment such as stock management, precision irrigation, riparian planting, and restoration of wetlands.

“We often hear that nothing is being done. This is insulting to the many people in our communities, farmers and others, who are working hard to improve things,” Dr Rixecker said.

ECan council chair Jenny Hughey said over the past three years council had successfully built on the water quality improvement platform.

“We are working with farmers to help them understand and adhere to the rules in our own plans as well as the regulations in the Government’s Essential Freshwater package,” she said.

“Farmers who are actively working to reduce nutrient losses will be well positioned as we move towards implementing Te Mana o te Wai through an integrated plan for Canterbury. This plan must be notified in 2024.”