Plan Change 7 adopted

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By David Hill

New nitrate limits and minimum flows have finally been adopted for Waimakariri.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) adopted Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan on Wednesday (November 17), accepting the hearing commissioners’ recommendations.

It brings to an end a process begun in 2012.

Plan Change 7 introduces new irrigation, winter grazing and nitrate thresholds and minimum flows for the Waimakariri and Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora (OTOP) zones.

It also provides new rules across the Canterbury region.

North Canterbury Cr Grant Edge said the new rules will require some farms to reduce nitrogen losses and to make efforts to exclude stock from water ways.

But they are achievable, he says.

“Plan Change 7 will be tough for many, but rural economies will survive.

“This is not the end of dairying, it’s just a reset to address the balance between the economy and looking after the environment.”

Mid-Canterbury farmer, Cr John Sunckell said Plan Change 7 was “a monumental piece of work”.

He said the nitrate limits and higher in-stream flows will present challenges for farmers and growers in both zones.

“This will be challenging for folk in those communities, but equally we will see environmental outcomes which will see us get to where we need to be.”

Several councillors expressed concerns the new rules did not go far enough in protecting the environment.

Christchurch-based Cr Lan Pham hoped Plan Change 7 would be “the last relic of the way we used to do things”.

She expressed concerns at balancing “short term profits” against protecting the drinking water of an entire city.

South Canterbury Cr Elizabeth McKenzie said Plan Change 7 was “a step in the right direction”.

“It is a good example of how slow our planning systems are at responding to environmental problems.”

Tumu Taiao mana whenua advisor Iaean Cranwell supported the plan changes, but said they did not go far enough in addressing cultural concerns.

ECan notified Plan Change 7 in July 2019, following an extensive community engagement process by the Waimakariri Zone Committee to develop a zone implementation plan addendum.

Plan Change 7 will remain active until 2024, when the council is required to notify new freshwater plans, in line with the government’s 2020 National Policy Statement on freshwater.

The plan change is subject to an appeal period of 15 working days.