6 Mar 2015

Flexible approach taken to stock water access

2:07 pm on 6 March 2015

Drought afflicted South Island farmers are hoping to get some real benefit from rain which has caused flooding on the West Coast and brought heavy rain to Nelson, Marlborough and the Canterbury high country.

In the meantime, Canterbury Regional Council was taking a more flexible approach in allowing access for livestock to waterways, to help farmers who were running short of water because of the drought.

Water restrictions were increasing as the drought tightened its grip, and some farmers had now lost all access to irrigation water.

The Regional Council had also refused requests by some ground water users to increase their annual allowances.

But Resource Management Director Kim Drummond said in response to requests from worried farmers, it would allow stock access to natural waterways, normally a no-go area, so long as it was properly controlled.

"We're getting some contact from farmers who are concerned that their stock may no be able to access water, and what we're letting farmers know is that getting water to stock is top priority and provided we have some environmental bottom lines remaining in place, we are very flexible about the way that they do that."

Mr Drummond said farmers had a range of options for getting water to stock, including transporting water to them or pumping it onto the farm.

"And we can even conceive of situations where stock can be led down to waterways and provided they don't ge into the water and disturb the water quality, and are well managed, those are the sorts of things we expect to work with farmers around. "

Mr Drummound said the message was that intensively farmed stock, that includes dairy and beef cattle, should not get direct access to waterways but controlled access.

"Things like hot wires (electric fences) set up so stock don't actually move right through into the waterway, those sorts of arrangements are what many farmers are talking to us about and we are quite happy to work with them to make sure their stock do get the water they need."

Mr Drummond said so far, the Regional Council had not taken enforcement action against any farmers over water access, and he said that indicated just how tuned in they were to the rules.

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