More than 1000 Northland farmers are facing major extra costs from new government Three Waters plans to protect human drinking water sources, a Northland farming leader is warning.
Federated Farmers Northland dairy chair Matt Long said meeting the new government Three Waters standards for the usually small human drinking water schemes on farms will mean extra new costs.
Any Northland scheme providing human drinking water to more than a single household is in the government's spotlight.
Long said at least 1000 Northland farmers would be paying as much as $1500 each for new water safety management plans required to meet proposed Three Waters requirements.
The government is aiming to have all drinking water supply to two or more houses officially registered. These schemes would each need a new water services management plan which Long said would cost Northland farmers between $500 and $1500 each. The plans have to be monitored and reported on with regional councils needing to report back to the government on the performance of measures it puts in place to protect the environment and catchment.
Regulatory controls are being proposed for catchments supplying this human drinking water, with public consultation that began on January 10.
Associate Minister for the Environment Kiri Allan said government plans centered on bringing in new national environmental standards for sources of human drinking water.
She said it was important to have protections in place for the sources of where this drinking water was taken from. This had been highlighted with the Havelock North campylobacter issues leading to several deaths, 60 people hospitalised and widespread community illness in 2016
"The proposed changes will help water suppliers to maintain and improve water quality around drinking water catchments," Allan said.
"We are proposing improvements in three areas; standardising the way we define source water areas, strengthening regulation of activities around water sources and adding more water suppliers to the register."
Federated farmers Northland president Colin Hannah said the potential new environmental regulation for catchment human drinking water sources was part of a raft of interlinked government Three Waters issues.
"It has major fish hooks for rural New Zealand. All of these issues are simply fixed with filtration and ultra violet light to make water safe at a reasonable cost to all households,"
Hannah said. "The approach the government is taking is raising questions in people's mind around the control of water, rather than the safety of water."
The proposed environmental standards around drinking water sources particularly affect localised areas immediately around the source water intake, seen as the areas of highest short-term risk.
For rivers it encompasses the river plus its bed 1,000 metres upstream and 100 metres downstream of the intake, extending five metres into land from the river edge
For lakes it encompasses the lake and its bed within a 500-metre radius of the intake, extending a five-metre buffer from the lake edge.
For aquifers it encompasses land within a five-metre radius around the abstraction point (bore head).
Long said any new environmental standards needed to be practical for those affected.
It was important too that the costs of their introduction did not outweigh alleged benefits, he said.
Many Northland farmers take their drinking water for their families from tank water.
But there are a number who take their drinking water from rivers, streams and - in some places including Ruawai and in the Far North - bores.
Long said farmers in Northland had already done a range of things to address water quality including fencing off waterways, spent hundreds of millions of dollars improving dairy shed runoff and were more closely managing general fertiliser use.
The new central government proposal will potentially mean major extra compliance work for those affected and ratepayer-funded Northland Regional Council (NRC).
NRC group manager environmental services Jonathan Gibbard, said the council was reviewing the implications of what was being proposed and would be making a submission. He said it was therefore not currently possible for NRC to comment further.
Direct discharges to water are among the activities the government is looking at in its new focus on this aspect of Three Waters. Others include land disturbance such as the drilling of bores over vulnerable aquifers and earthworks.
Hannah said Northland farmers should be standing up and making their voices heard on the new development. Federated Farmers would be making a submission on the proposal, open for feedback until March 6.
More about the proposed change can be found on the Ministry for the Environment website consult.environment.govt.nz/freshwater/nes-drinking-water