A new era for farmers is looming when changes proposed by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Tukituki Plan Change are approved next year.
Excessive growth of algae and slime is the biggest freshwater quality issue facing the Tukituki catchment and regional council science investigations confirmed that reducing the phosphorus would deliver the biggest and quickest gains for environmental improvement.
To achieve this, the draft plan change included rules for keeping stock out of river water to help reduce algae growth where phosphorus was attached to soil which currently entered the river system. Keeping stock out of the water would also improve stream banks and habitats for native fish and trout, as well as aesthetics.
The plan change also proposed increases in minimum flow limits to protect fish habitats which would mean some consent holders would need to stop taking water for irrigation earlier than they currently would.
A transition period would mean stock exclusion would not take effect until 2017, nor new minimum flow restrictions until 2018.
The regional council said it recognised the draft plan change would reduce the reliability of water supply to farmers and land users so, in parallel, had been investigating the idea of a water storage project to keep higher river flows for an alternative supply during dry times. "It is, no doubt, a new era for farmers in the Tukituki catchment, and other catchment-based plan changes will follow," the regional council's strategic development group manager, Helen Codlin, said.
Other regions were also experiencing the impact of plans that set water quality limits, required by the government's National Policy Statement for freshwater management.