Rotorua farmers and Bay of Plenty Regional Council have signed a milestone agreement which could be a major turning point in cleaning up Lake Rotorua.
The Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective, Federated Farmers and Bay of Plenty Regional Council have signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing on a way forward to reduce nutrients entering Lake Rotorua while recognising the importance of farming to the local economy. The Collective is made up of dairy farmers, drystock farmers and Te Arawa landowners within Lake Rotorua's catchment.
Farmers and the Regional Council had been in talks with Rotorua MP Todd McClay since November 2012 following Federated Farmers court appeal last year. The Regional Council set out the broad policy approach and a timeframe of 2022 to achieve the required nutrient reduction in its Proposed Regional Policy Statement which was formally challenged in the Environment Court.
Mr McClay said he decided to intervene to help reach consensus between the rural community and Council as the future of farming was as important as a clean lake.
"A lot of hard work went into preparing an agreement that satisfied the needs of both parties.
What was clear from both sides is that they wanted to agree on the principles and processes that will be used to reach nutrient reduction targets while ensuring agriculture is still viable in the Lake Rotorua catchment," Mr McClay said.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chief Executive Mary-Anne Macleod said the agreement set out an intent to work together to achieve sustainable nitrogen levels for Lake Rotorua's water quality by 2032.
"We're very pleased to work with the farmers on a broad approach to achieving nutrient reductions from the pastoral sector," she said.
"The great work undertaken by Rotorua MP Todd McClay means that we can now focus on work to support farming and clean up Lake Rotorua rather than wasting time and resources on a protracted and expensive legal challenge. We are looking forward to working collaboratively with farmers and landowners to work out the details of how to achieve the target in the agreed timeframes," Ms Macleod said.
Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective chairman Dr Tanira Kingi said agriculture and farming were integral to the local economy and New Zealand, and he was pleased the agreement was passed by the Collective's members.
"The Collective's decision to sign this agreement demonstrates the willingness of farmers and landowners within the catchment to work with the Regional Council to restore the lake while maintaining the viability of the local farming sector.
"The agreement is also an important step towards getting more certainty around the nutrient reduction targets, timeframe, available resources and the process going forward. The Collective and the Regional Council are committed to working collaboratively to meet the challenge," Dr Kingi said.
Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers provincial president Neil Heather was relieved that an agreement was reached.
"While farmers recognise that work must be done to bring Lake Rotorua back to acceptable levels of health, it is pleasing that the role of agriculture in our catchment and its importance to jobs and income has been recognised. We are committed to working closely with the Regional Council in partnership to do what needs to be done for Lake Rotorua," Mr Heather said.
Ms Macleod said the Regional Council would work with the Lake Rotorua Stakeholder Advisory Group to develop the rules and incentives required to achieve the necessary nutrient reductions.
The Advisory Group includes representatives from the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective, Lakes Water Quality Society, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Rotorua District Council, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Office of the M?ori Trustee, forestry sector, Te Arawa landowners and small block owners.
"We acknowledge that achieving the necessary nutrient reduction will not be easy for many landowners, and that it will come at some cost. We appreciate the commitment that they are making to play their part to restore Lake Rotorua," Ms Macleod said.
The Memorandum sets out the principles and processes to meet nutrient reduction targets. Farmers and the Regional Council will cooperate and collaborate to achieve the sustainable nitrogen load by 2032, with 70 per cent of the nitrogen reduction target for the catchment achieved by 2022.
The agreement reached by Federated Farmers, the Collective and the Council on the 2032 timeframe is subject to the Environment Court's approval.