Ahuriri Arm water quality still a focus – one year on

Chair of the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee, Simon Cameron, talks about the progress made to address water quality at Lake Benmore.

This year’s improvement in water quality at Lake Benmore is welcome news but won’t be slowing the momentum of the zone committee’s work to meet the community’s expectations for this valued lake.

Annual water quality monitoring results for the Trophic Level Index (TLI) for Lake Benmore’s Ahuriri Arm have lowered to 2.75, an improvement from the previous year’s TLI of 2.9. This limit is below the level that requires consent holders in this area to take additional action to reduce their nutrient discharges on top of their usual consent requirements.

While we’re always pleased to be notified of improved water quality results from the Environment Canterbury science team, there’s still more work to be done in improving good management practices on farms throughout the Ahuriri catchment and Upper Waitaki.

Operating at industry good management practice

Over the past year, Environment Canterbury has required affected consent holders in the catchment to reduce their nutrient discharge allowances (NDAs), followed up with all farms that required land use consents, visited all farms with existing consents and checked irrigation management. A new catchment group, the Ahuriri Catchment Collective, has also been established to support best practice farming in the area.

As a joint committee of the councils, and one that includes with some local members with extensive on-the-ground knowledge of farming systems and nutrient management, we have been asking the big questions around the importance of getting all farms in the wider catchment operating at, or beyond, industry approved good management practices. The end game being that we fulfil the community’s expectations around keeping the water quality Lake Benmore at a very high level.

Reporting back

A report on progress of the Ahuriri TLI issue was presented to the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee’s meeting on 19 June 2020 and, as part of it, we heard about the progress being made by the farm environmental consultants to address the differing conditions on consents link to the Lake TLI.

The committee also discussed the need for an increased compliance focus in the catchment and sharing of data with farms to help them understand ‘hot spots’ and impacts on the lake from farming activity. These steps were recommended to Environment Canterbury.

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