24 Apr 2015

Farmers hit by new Lake Ellesmere rules

11:59 am on 24 April 2015

Canterbury's regional council has introduced new rules and policies, which will have a significant effect on farmers, in a bid to clean up one of the country's most polluted lakes.

An aerial view of Lake Ellesmere.

An aerial view of Lake Ellesmere. Photo: CC Wikicommons

Groundwater takes will be restricted and farmers will have to reduce nitrogen losses by 2022, to improve the water quality of Lake Ellesmere, by up to 30 percent in some cases.

Farming activity near the lake will require resource consent, and damming in certain areas will be prohibited, as will new water takes.

Environment Canterbury today accepted the recommendations from independent hearing commissioners on proposed new rules for the Lake Ellesmere catchment, under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

The new plan will be publicly notified next month, and legal appeals to the High Court will be open for 15 working days.

Environment Canterbury's acting chairman, David Caygill, acknowledged that the rules were challenging, but reasonable.

He said that without them, the lake and its surrounding ecosystem would suffer further.

Mr Caygill said the plan would test whether it was possible to strike a balance between the economic benefits of farming and the subsequent environmental and cultural concerns.

He said it would take up to 20 years for the water quality to improve.

New rules and policies

  • Farmers will be required to reduce their nutrient losses. Where nitrogen loss rates are more than 15 kilogram per hectare per year, farming activites will need to significantly reduce this, by an average of 14 percent. It is expected that dairy farmers will need to reduce their losses by up to 30 percent.
  • A nitrogen loss allocation is available for the dryland that will be irrigated by the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme.
  • The role of drains in contributing nutrients, sediment and microbial contaminants to waterways and the lake is recognised and, as such, stock access prohibition will be extended to drains.
  • Water allocation limits will be set, new takes are prohibited and the transfer of water permits will be restricted.
  • A prohibition on new damming systems will be extended to the Waianiwaniwa River and its tributaries.
  • From 1 January 2017, consent will be needed to farm if farm size is larger than 10 hectares, nitrogen loss is greater than 15 kg/ha per annum, or if the farm is very close to the lake or within the new phosphorous sediment risk area.