Three years in the making, Environment Southland has publicly notified its much anticipated proposed Water and Land Plan today.
One plan, 947 submissions, five commissioners, 26 days of public hearings, and 274 submitters presented to the panel — all of these led to today's public notification of a proposed plan that will make milestone changes to how Southland's towns and farms can use its land and water.
The plan aims to stop any further decline in Southland's water quality by controlling certain activities carried out on land and around water.
It also brings the regional council closer to meeting its obligations under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
Environment Southland said a lot of the submissions it received came from the farming sector; however, the plan also discusses urban water use issues such as wastewater discharge.
Land use intensification, winter grazing, stock exclusion from waterways and further intensification or establishment of new dairy farms are some of the rural activities the plan addresses. It will also require all landholders over 20 hectares to have a farm environmental management plan (FEMP).
In relation to urban discharges, the plan seeks to better manage discharges of stormwater and sewage.
Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said the regional council believed the plan took a pragmatic approach to tackling water quality issues in Southland, and adopting good management practices was going to be really important to getting the improvements in water quality everyone wanted to see.
Mr Horrell said he knew they couldn't please everybody but hoped when people looked at the document they would see their concerns had been taken on board.
"Overall, it's a much improved document… It does give us a platform going forward."
Environment Southland Director of policy, planning and regulatory services Vin Smith said they hoped the new plan would be operative in 2019.
"If people have concerns… we've got a team of experts here that can help people through their process.
"We will do our best to answer questions."
While yesterday's notification made for a milestone step, the regional council says there's still plenty more to do.
People who sent in a submission and are unhappy with any changes to the parts of the plan they submitted on can lodge an appeal with Environment Court before May 17. Appeals are expected to be heard this year and in 2019.
In the coming months Environment Southland will also be talking with iwi, communities, businesses and other stakeholders in effort to develop draft limits for water takes and for the level of contaminants that get into waterways, as part of its People, Water, and Land Programme.
Southland Water and Land Plan at-a-glance
For more detailed information about the entirety of the proposed plan, visit the Environment Southland website.
Dairy Farming (Rule 20): Existing dairying prior to June 2016 is permitted at current levels. However new or expanded dairy farming is a restricted discretionary activity that requires a consent.
Intensive Winter Grazing (Rule 20): Up to 15% of landholding or 100ha (whichever is smaller) is permitted. Going over that will require a consent, and evidence will be needed to show that there is no additional environmental impact beyond what your losses have been over the last five years.
Good Management Practices (Rule 20): All farms over 20ha are required to have a farm environmental management plan.
Cultivation (Rule 25): Cultivation allowed on slopes up to 20 degrees, or up to 800m above sea level provided farmers meet permitted criteria. Cultivation on steeper land will require a consent, and will not be allowed within five metres of a waterway.
Agricultural effluent storage and management (Rules 32B & D, 35 and 39): There are new permitted activity and discretionary activity rules for existing agricultural effluent storage facilities. To qualify as a permitted activity, new agricultural effluent storage facilities need an impermeable concrete or synthetic lining and meet size limits. If not, they need to be designed by a chartered professional engineer to industry guidelines.
Feed Pads (Rule 35a): Multiple feed pads per site are now permitted. There are limits on the number of stock that can use a feed pad and feed pads need to be set back from sensitive areas. There are also requirements relating to how the feed pad base is constructed. If this isn’t met, then a discretionary consent is required.
Excluding Stock from Waterways (Rule 70): Stock other than sheep to be excluded from waterways. Occasional managed stock crossings of rivers permitted with some exceptions. All stock is prohibited from accessing areas with high biodiversity values.