Your columnist Bruce Bisset has once again made a grossly erroneous statement about the region's management of water quality that I need to correct.

Bisset has asserted that the regional council's objective in managing nitrogen in the Tukituki catchment is "not making things worse" and the council is "not making things better".

This assertion is coupled with his repeated assertion that the council is pursuing "changes to nitrogen limits". This is simply wrong.

Here are the facts: The operative Tukituki Plan requires the concentration of nitrogen in the river and its tributaries to be at, or below, 0.8mg/l by 2030.


The regional council has no plans to change these ambitious limits. 0.8mg/l is a very low level for an agricultural catchment and was set by a Board of Inquiry to ensure strong protection of ecosystem health. It is even lower than the 1mg/l recently proposed for national bottom lines on nitrogen by some scientists and environmental groups.

Bruce Bisset says the regional council is pursuing
Bruce Bisset says the regional council is pursuing "changes to nitrogen limits". This is not the case, says the council's chief executive.

In each and every sub-catchment where this limit is currently exceeded (by more than 400 per cent in one sub-catchment) every medium or high intensity farm in that sub-catchment is required to have a land use consent to farm.

The conditions set within these consents will require changes to farming practice in order to meet the nitrogen target by 2030.

No one yet knows precisely what these consent conditions will look like as the consents were only required to be applied for on May 31 and many are still coming in because the council is giving drought-stricken farmers a little leeway to apply.

The specific controls that will apply to each farm are being developed off the back of work by the regional council's science team of freshwater ecologists who are calculating the nitrogen loss from current land use and what will be required to achieve the 0.8 mg/l by 2030.

What we do know is that in a number of sub-catchments in the Tukituki intensive farming practices will be required to undergo significant change.

So when Bisset also claims that he is "reliably informed one CHB intensive dairy operator laughed at the fact he (now) didn't have to change a thing to comply" he is not referring to any fact but presumably a farmer who is as misinformed as he is.