Farmers are being reminded they have just four more years to apply for financial help from Environment Waikato to fence stock off from waterways under the Clean Streams programme.
The regional council pays up to 35 per cent of the cost of fencing as part of its efforts to stop stock and stock effluent from contributing to effluent and sediment contamination of waterways.
The council has also announced that it has agreed so-called "priority one stock exclusion waterbodies" can still qualify for Clean Streams funding.
Funding for fencing these priority one waterbodies had previously been due to finish last financial year, as part of efforts to encourage farmers to get on to fencing them off more quickly.
But, recognizing the financial pressures farmers have been under in recent years, the council has recently decided to extend this deadline to help ensure landowners are still able to get help to fence off priority one waterways.
Many priority one waterbodies still to be fenced are in upper catchment areas where sheep and beef farming predominate. In these cases, the costs of fencing to exclude stock generally exceed those in the dairying situation. Other priority one waterbodies include harbours and estuaries.
"All of the Waikato’s waterways are very precious and we want to work closely with farmers to protect them, whatever their circumstances," said river and catchment services committee chairman Andra Neeley.
"But we will prioritise applications from upper catchment farmers wishing to fence off priority one waterbodies. It’s easier to protect clean water near the start of rivers and streams than deal with dirty water in the lower reaches of waterways. We’ll also look particularly favourably at applications to fence off harbours and estuaries."
Cr Neely said the fencing of the margins of harbours and estuaries was particularly important, as these were the ones that tended to have most stock being run nearby.
She also stressed that fencing in upper catchment areas needed to take into account the potential for flash flooding to damage fencing. "It can be best to go for fencing which is simple, effective and easily repairable in such upper catchment areas."
Cr Neeley encouraged farmers to contact Environment Waikato if they wanted to establish clearly whether waterways on their property were in the priority one category.
"The reality is that water quality in the region has been declining, so keeping stock out of rivers and streams is an essential part of reversing this trend. We encourage all farmers with waterways running through their property, or beside them, to fence them off. We’re willing to pitch in with Clean Streams financial assistance to help make this as painless as possible.
"We are confident the Clean Streams programme, and extending the deadline for applying for funding the fencing off of priority one waterbodies, will play a significant part in attaining our goals," said Cr Neeley.
Since it was launched in 2002, Clean Streams has contributed towards the fencing of 1100 kilometres of waterway in the Waikato.
Clean Streams grants – funded from the council’s investment fund – are now officially due to finish by the end of June 2012.