Last week significant progress was made in the clean-up of Lake Rotorua with the signing of an important agreement between farmers, environmentalists and our Regional Council. For far too long we've argued about who is to blame. Last week a decision was made to look forward and embrace those who committed to being part of the solution.
In November of last year I decided to intervene and work with the rural sector and Bay of Plenty Regional Council on a solution to their two year court battle over water quality. You see, I realised that farmers did want to do their bit to reduce nitrogen flows into the lake, and in fact have probably already achieved 20 per cent of the required reductions of nitrogen from rural land into our waterways.
This year our lake is arguably cleaner than at any time over the last 10 years, having passed the target for clarity set by scientists some 10 years ago. Good news but more will need to be done as nitrogen in groundwater some 50 or 60 years of age reaches the lake.
In turn, farming is worth billions of dollars to our local economy. Many businesses and jobs are dependent upon it. It became obvious that the regional council was as interested in protecting the local economy as the farmers were in a healthy lake. We negotiated over three months and a deal was struck which has the backing of all dairy farmers in the Lake Rotorua catchment.
This is a major step forward in restoring the lake to levels of health. The future of farming to our electorate is as important as having a clean lake in respect of local jobs, we don't have one without the other.
With this agreement we are able to clean up the lake and provide certainty to the rural community.
Cleaning up Lake Rotorua has been a priority for our city for many years and agreeing on the way forward hasn't been so simple. Under the Oturoa Agreement, the three parties will now conclude long-running legal challenges, with Federated Farmers withdrawing their appeal to the Environment Court, and formally co-operate on efforts to clean up the lake.
The agreement states that farmers and the regional council will co-operate 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. Rules will be developed to set out how and when nutrients from land use need to be reduced and incentives will be provided to help landowners meet their nutrient reductions.
Regional Council have agreed to work closely with all stakeholders through the Lake Rotorua Stakeholder Advisory Group and to develop rules and incentives 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 Maori Trustee, forestry sector, Te Arawa landowners and small block owners.
A lot of hard work went into preparing an agreement that satisfied the needs of all parties and I give my sincere thanks to those who have worked tirelessly with me over the last few months to do so. There have been no other agreements like this made in New Zealand before. The Rotorua community can be extremely proud that this will open the door for other regions to follow our lead.
This agreement is about "Putting Rotorua First" and by continuing to work together we can restore Lake Rotorua to clean health for the betterment of our city and be a leading example to the rest of New Zealand.
If you would like more information on the Oturoa agreement or water quality initiatives visit my website http://www.toddmcclay.co.nz