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Water issues . . . The Waimakariri Zone Committee’s draft sub-regional plan identifies issues specific to the Ashley Rakahuri River, pictured, and Waimakariri River catchments. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

By DAVID HILL

Reducing nitrates is one of five key recommendations identified in the Waimakariri Zone’s draft sub-regional plan.

The Waimakariri Zone Committee seeks feedback on it’s draft Zone Implementation Programme (ZIP) addendum to Environment Canterbury’s Land and Water Regional Plan, which includes recommendations on reducing nitrates, improving stream health, protecting indigenous biodiversity, and managing surface and groundwater quantity.

“We’re all in this together and everyone agrees that we must improve our rivers and streams,” zone chairman Dave Ashby says.

“We have been listening to the community’s views and values, and have developed a set of draft recommendations that we think will help achieve this.”

Reducing nitrates has received the most attention and the zone committee proposes requiring farmers meet baseline good management practice (GMP) by July 1, 2020, (or 2025 for consents held until this date). In some areas, “nitrate priority management zones”, reaching GMP will not be enough, Mr Ashby says.

“We’ve had to balance the need for reaching freshwater goals with community prosperity.

“This means that farmers in high-risk zones will need to make reductions in nitrates in stages over the next decade.”

Dairy farmers in these zones will be expected to achieve a reduction of 10-15 percent beyond baseline GMP by 2030, while other farmers will be expected to achieve 5-10%.

In some areas with heavy soils, sediment, phosphorus and E. coliare having a bigger impact on waterways than nitrates.

Runoff priority management areas will be established to deal with these issues where contaminants are carried to waterways by runoff from farms, lifestyle blocks and urban stormwater.

Mr Ashby says there is innovative work already happening to improve water quality and quantity, including infiltration and denitrification wall trials to reduce nitrate levels at Silverstream.

“Farmers have been playing their part by investing in technology to improve irrigation efficiency and by making on-farm changes to reach GMP.”

Recommendations have also been outlined to address over-allocation by recovering at least 20% of allocated water in “surface water allocation zones” by 2032.

The draft ZIP also addresses issues specific to the separate Ashley Rakahuri River and Waimakariri River catchments, as well as sub-catchments such as the Cam River, Silverstream and the Kaiapoi / Waimakariri confluence.

It is also recommended that the lifestyle block management plan pilot project be extended to all of the more than 1000 lifestyle blocks in the Waimakariri zone.

Mr Ashby says urban people can play a part by washing cars on the lawn using eco-car wash liquid, avoiding using chemical products near drains, picking up dog droppings and joining a local stream care group.