Quick action on water quality issue for Ahuriri consents

The busy warmer months are well on their way but a group of farmers in our water zone have already been flat out - working with Environment Canterbury to make changes to their Nutrient Discharge Allowances (NDAs) ahead of the start of this irrigation season.

This flurry of activity was prompted by a change to the water quality measurement at the Ahuriri Arm of Lake Benmore in July.

A rise in the Trophic Level Index (TLI), from 2.3 to 2.9, meant that some consent holders needed to take action, as an early warning trigger within their water permit consents had been reached.

Find out more about TLI levels in the Upper Waitaki.

Taking early actions

Since the farmers were alerted to the reduction in water quality, a process has been followed to determine what actions they need to take, including what reductions in nutrients will be required.

It’s turned out that the affected consent holders have chosen to work collectively as a group to deal with the challenge. And instead of taking a longer pathway to determine if their farming activity is contributing to the decrease in water quality – which would have involved setting up an expert panel – the group agreed to move directly to making reductions.

This has allowed the whole process to make speedy progress to hopefully be completed in time for this year’s irrigation season to start.

What has been the water zone committee’s role in this situation and what have we learned already?

As a group of people focused on water quality issues - not just councils but also local community members and rūnanga – we were able to give crucial committee time and attention to work through some of the trickiest issues and ask Environment Canterbury for extra information and science.

A key concern we’ve raised is the different conditions on consents across the Ahuriri catchment, which means some people have to act now, whereby others do not need to act unless the water quality further decreases.

However, the information we received from Environment Canterbury indicates everyone in the catchment is likely to be contributing to the TLI increase.

We’re not finished working through this issue yet – and a good forum to get positive catchment-wide changes happening will be the new Ahuriri Catchment Group, now being established.

We’ll be following this new group closely and look forward to their future proactive contributions to farming. 

I’d like to thank everyone who has pitched in to give their views, helped work through possible solutions and kept their focus on making changes to improve water quality.

It’s important to remember that Lake Benmore and the many other beautiful lakes in the area are treasures worth protecting.