The signing of the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claim River Settlement Bill is likely to mean Environment Waikato will need to tighten its regulatory processes to protect water quality in the Waikato River, says EW chairman Peter Buckley.
In remarks to a meeting of the Combined Dairy and Drystock Liaison Group in Hamilton today, Cr Buckley said the council was striving to ensure a strong regional economy and a healthy environment in the Waikato.
He said that from next month EW would start circulating a working draft of its next Regional Policy Statement. It will, amongst other things, float new water quality objectives which, if implemented, could present particular challenges for farmers.
EW was happy to work with industry to achieve the best outcome, Cr Buckley said, but added the new legislation, due to be signed by Christmas, would put the council under pressure to do more to protect water quality.
"We believe that one of the effects of the bill will be a need for EW to tighten its regulatory processes.
"Decisions on exactly what EW will do have not been made. But they could possibly include a requirement that intensive agriculture may need individual resource consents, which would be monitored regularly."
Cr Buckley, a dairy farmer himself, stressed the council had an open mind about the way ahead and he expected farmers to make sure their views on the issues were heard clearly.
He also acknowledged farming’s key ongoing economic role in the region. "What I want to see at the end of the day is a healthy regional economy, underpinned by a strong farming sector. But we also need to ensure we have a healthy environment, to meet the community’s expectations, and to ensure our natural resources support our economy.
"As I’ll keep saying, we need to get the balance right."