For over six years a group of about 35 stakeholders — including Peter Beaven and me for the Regional Council — investigated the best way to manage the land, waterways and aquifers of the Heretaunga Plains. This so-called TANK group (Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro, Karamu) consisting of growers, sheep and beef farmers, environmentalists, tangata whenua, DoC, DHB and territorial authorities has arrived at a plan.

Every aspect of water quality, supply and allocation was examined and debated during this process – irrigation, ecosystem health, land use and soil erosion, municipal and residential water use, stormwater management, drinking water safety, water conservation.

The Plan was approved in September by the Regional Council and our Regional Planning Committee for official notification, which would start the formal public submission process.

Peter and I prepared this Talking Point which HB Today published 26 September describing the plan. However, because I’m a candidate, HBT would not include me as an author.

Here are the 10 key elements:

1. Puts a “sinking lid” in place whereby new consents for Heretaunga aquifer water are barred, to avoid exacerbating existing stress on the aquifer, while all existing consents will be reviewed and adjusted downward to reflect “actual and reasonable use”.

2. No dams will be allowed on the Tutaekuri or Ngaruroro Rivers or their four key tributaries.

3. Water harvesting and on-land storage schemes will be permitted, but these will need to proceed through normal RMA review processes to establish their environmental suitability. And, if meeting that test, they will need to be user paid.

4. An entire new suite of water quality standards – covering nitrates, phosphorous, E. coli, dissolved oxygen, MCI levels etc – will be introduced for the first time. And wetlands are protected.

5. Soil erosion is targeted and addressed as a key problem adversely affecting both freshwater and marine water quality and farming productivity.

6. A new “source protection scheme” will better protect both Hastings and Napier drinking water from contamination.

7. New standards and controls will be in place for managing stormwater.

8. A programme to augment stream and spring flows (thereby improving water quality and ecosystem health in our lowland streams like the Karamu) will be trialled and monitored closely for effectiveness.

9. Higher requirements for efficient water use by irrigators will be in place.

10. All farmers and growers will need to either participate in local “catchment collectives” to manage their nutrient loss and soil erosion issues according to HBRC-approved plans, or submit individual Farm Environment Plans for review, approval and monitoring.

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