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New road map for land and water

A new sustainable agriculture “road map” for protecting and improving land values and water quality in the region was approved yesterday by Waikato Regional Council’s policy committee.

Implementation of the “Land and water road map for sustainable agriculture” will be the responsibility of a new land and water quality subcommittee which begins operation next month.

The policy committee also tasked the land and water quality subcommittee with informing it and council on the implementation of Government’s new National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management, which takes effect from 1 July. As part of that NPS work, the subcommittee will guide work with iwi on a review of the plan governing activities in the Waikato River catchment, with a view to making changes to help protect land and water values.

“The measures signed off by the policy committee are the important next steps aimed at finding the best way to protect land values and water quality in our region,” said committee chair Paula Southgate. .

“Farming is crucial to our economy but it is also having a significant impact on waterways. It’s vitally important that we get our policies and plans relating to agriculture and land and water right so we can best achieve our vision of the Waikato competing globally, caring locally.

“This vision stresses the fact that to get the best out of our region socially, economically, environmentally and culturally we need to protect the natural resources that underpin activities like agriculture and tourism, and which help maintain our reputation in international markets.”

Cr Southgate said work was already underway to improve the region’s management of water resources and the NPS required an even stronger focus on avoiding further decline and over-allocation of water.

“Our proposed Regional Policy Statement requires us to take a catchment management approach and introduce water quality targets on a catchment by catchment basis, rather than a region wide target as at present. This should enable us to take actions appropriate for individual areas rather than a blanket approach.

“This approach is in line with Government’s directions in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater which comes into effect next month.

“Measures from the new land and water road map have already been incorporated in the council’s 2011-12 annual plan, including close work with industry on farmer environmental awareness and education strategies. Further work on the details of the road map for the years ahead is in the pipeline.”

She said these various developments come against a background of joint decision-making and close co-operation with iwi on implementing the new co-governance regime for the Waikato River, which includes significant financial resources for improving water quality.

“It’s important that we also work closely with all stakeholders – including farmers, local councils, and the agriculture and tourism sectors – to ensure we get it right when it comes to protecting and enhancing our waterways and our land.

“The steps approved by the policy committee, and the work of the new land and water quality subcommittee, will help us further achieve our goal of enhancing our economy and export performance, whilst ensuring we look after the environmental values we hold dear closer to home.”

The policy committee is made up of all councillors. The full council is due to consider final endorsement of its decisions yesterday at a meeting later this month.

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