Environment groups want rules setting limits on nitrogen leaching decided by a court or board - rather than by Horizons Regional Council.
The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Fish & Game reacted quickly to news the Manawatū-Whanganui regional council plans to notify a proposed change to its One Plan rules on intensive farming.
The two groups took the council to the Environment Court in early 2017, and Fish & Game CEO Martin Taylor said that before 2017 Horizons was issuing consents unlawfully, and failing to implement its own One Plan.
The court found "profound deficiencies" in the way the council administered its plan, and the council was heavily criticised, EDS CEO Gary Taylor said.
Given that, and the national importance of setting limits to nitrogen leaching, he favoured the plan change being called in by Environment Minister David Parker.
If that happened what Horizons was proposing would be referred to a Board of Inquiry appointed by Parker, or directly to the Environment Court.
He intends to write to the minister, and ask for the matter to go directly to the Environment Court.
It would be to Horizons' advantage to ask for that itself, he said, because it would save the council money and time.
The two groups have been suggesting this all along, Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said - but he wouldn't consider it.
He said the Government was encouraging local decision making, and as far as he knew Parker and his officials were happy with the change the council is proposing.
"We are hopefully doing the right thing."
Letting a board or court decide on the plan change would completely take away local democracy, he said.
"We don't want [local decision making] constantly challenged by groups outside our district."
Asked for comment, Environment Minister David Parker was pleased the council had formally resolved to proceed with the proposed plan change. He was seeking advice from officials on the detail and quality of it, and had no more to say at present.
Both EDS and Fish & Game were pleased Horizons was moving on the issue, but said the two-year wait had been too long.
EDS has yet to finish a detailed analysis of the proposed change, but Taylor said there were already concerning signs.
'It seems as if good management practice is intended to be a way of avoiding regulatory limits, which is unlikely to be enough to achieve good water quality."
The wording changes proposed would further weaken the plan at a time when Government is looking to tighten up freshwater quality limits, he said.
And Fish & Game's Taylor said the proposed plan change went only part way to what was required. He questioned whether Horizons was serious about addressing contaminant loss in over allocated catchments.