Environment Canterbury on the way to meeting OECD water recommendations

Environment Canterbury is well on the way to implementing some of the recommendations made by the OECD in its Environmental Performance Review 2017 released 21 March.

Environment Canterbury deputy chair Steve Lowndes welcomed the review.

While he was not surprised by the OECD’s assessment in the review, he believed the regional council was already on track to progressing many of the water management recommendations.

One of the key recommendations of the Review is to:

  • Ensure that water quality and quantity limits set locally are ambitious and comprehensive.

“In Canterbury our water quality and quantity issues are the result of decades of activity both in urban and rural areas. We cannot restore the environment to how it was before agriculture development or before towns and cities grew, but we can protect and begin improving what is left,” Cr Lowndes said.

“We have already set limits for nutrient discharge to protect water quality across the whole of Canterbury which were introduced in 2012 in the Land & Water Regional Plan (LWRP).”

The LWRP was the first time in Canterbury that water quality was comprehensively addressed in a regional plan covering both urban and rural areas. In particular it sets strict limits for nitrate pollution across the region. The LWRP also allows communities to have input on setting nitrate limits in specific catchments, if tougher local rules are needed.

So far tougher nutrient rules have been introduced in the Selwyn Waihora catchment (Plan Change 1 of the LWRP), in the Hinds Plains (PC2), in South Coast Canterbury (PC3), as well as the Wairewa catchment (Lake Forsyth – PC6).

“The limits set in these plan changes are ambitious as they ask a lot of farmers and land owners as well as the agri-industry, and will require ongoing change, improvement and significant investment in farming systems in order to improve water quality,” Cr Lowndes said.

“We are also making very good progress in water use efficiency (OECD’s recommendation No.5 for water). Late in 2016 we announced that every water consent holder in Canterbury (5 litres per second and above) either had a water meter in place or had committed to having one installed as soon as practicable. This is a key step in measuring, managing and improving water use efficiency in Canterbury.”

The review makes three other recommendations for water resources management (see grey box), some relevant for Regional Councils and others aimed more at central Government.

“It shows that we and other regional councils need to continue working with central government on dealing with our legacy water quality and quantity issues.”

View the full report (250 pages) here

View the highlights (16 pages) here 

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