Those without consent for intensive farming in the Horizons region will still have to wait "quite a few months" before they have a clear pathway.
Horizons Regional Council must tighten the way it grants consent for intensive farming such as dairy and market gardening, after an Environment Court declaration in April this year.
At Tuesday's strategy and policy committee meeting it took a first step toward some resolution.
Councillors decided on a two-pronged approach. In the short term council officers will look for a small, quick plan change that will get more farms through the consent process and still improve water quality.
Strategy and policy manager Nic Peet said officers were looking at two options for this, and testing them would take "quite a few months".
In the longer term the officers will review the region's catchments one by one.
That process could take years. It's needed, in order to complete assessments of environmental effects.
"We need clear limits for each catchment, set in line with iwi aspirations."
Dr Peet's advice to unconsented farmers is to apply for consent if they can meet the nitrogen leaching table in the One Plan. But for about 200, there is not much chance they will get it until a new pathway is found.
They are in a "holding situation", and most will have to carry on farming "unauthorised".
"In the meantime, don't go away and intensify your operation. There's a general commitment to keep making improvements, and most people are just getting on and doing it," Dr Peet said.
Whanganui Horizons councillor Nicola Patrick is frustrated by the delay, but hopeful of a good result. She complimented Horizons staff on keeping councillors informed on this complex issue.
She is also encouraged by news that, after months of written exchanges, Horizons officers will meet with Fish & Game and Environmental Defence Society members in early December.
It was those two groups that took the consent matter to the Environment Court.
Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said 95 per cent of the One Plan is being successfully implemented, and the council is improving water quality.