Changes are coming to how Horizons Regional Council manages the region's freshwater resources, writes Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor Coralee Matena.

The council has agreed to undertake a three stage plan change process, with the first two stages, (plan change two and plan change three), proposing changes to the One Plan as it is in its current form.

The final stage, (plan change four), will seek to overhaul the regional council's regulatory approach to water quality.

The first stage focuses on updating Table 14.2 to reflect changes in OVERSEER.

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Table 14.2 sets out the cumulative nitrogen leaching maximums for land used for intensive farming activities within each specified land use capability class. Federated Farmers considers this plan change to be a technical update to reflect the need for the values provided in Table 14.2 to align with current OVERSEER modelling values.

Read more Federated Farmers stories here.

The current table numbers were calculated using OVERSEER in 2007 and since this time, modelled nitrogen leaching has changed by 60 per cent. The council anticipate they will be in a position to notify the updated table in November this year.

The Stage 2 Plan Change aims to make a broader set of changes to the One Plan to ensure that a practicable consenting pathway exists through Rule 14.2 – Restricted Discretionary Consent. The changes will provide a mechanism for those who cannot meet the values in the table to be able to apply to gain consent.

Finally, (via the stage three plan change), the council are seeking to develop broad based action plans for water quality, not focused on regulation, but on the outcomes communities want and the change that requires.

This Plan Change as currently proposed, will make significant amendments to the One Plan, and will where relevant, address the requirements of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

Federated Farmers sees real merits in an adaptive catchment-based approach.

An action plan for water quality that is set at catchment level enables a specific community to own and shape the values and outcomes of the plan, tailoring efforts and regulation where necessary to address the water quality issues of that distinct catchment.

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