Canterbury has an abundance of fresh water flowing down the large braided rivers fed by the Southern Alps and stored in substantial groundwater aquifers. While the quality of these braided rivers and aquifers is excellent, the extraction of water for irrigated agriculture and the resulting loss of contaminants through free draining soils back to some rivers, lakes and groundwaters is an issue.
Environment Canterbury Regional Council, Ngai Tahu and Canterbury’s District and City Councils have put in place the ‘Canterbury Water Management Strategy’ for managing the sustainable use of the region’s water.
It sees the region covered by ten water management zones. Each has a committee responsible for bringing people together to make recommendations to the Council for the best way to manage the water in their area. This includes environmental limits for their waterways and how to allocate the water since most of the region relies on irrigation. The committees are guided by overarching targets for the region.
Each zone is working through a limit-setting process. But there are region-wide rules requiring all farmers to meet good management practice – including strict controls around nutrient loss limits. Fonterra’s Tiaki Sustainable Dairying Programme is supporting farmers to achieve this.Each zone is working through a limit-setting process. But there are region-wide rules requiring all farmers to meet good management practice – including strict controls around nutrient loss limits. Fonterra’s Tiaki Sustainable Dairying Programme is supporting farmers to achieve this.
From July 2017 all dairy farmers were required to have land-use consents based on their maximum nutrient limit, making Canterbury one of the most comprehensive regulatory regimes in the country.
It is worth highlighting that the nature of the region’s soil and water systems means that despite the hard work of land and water users, including Fonterra farmers, to make changes to their operations there is likely to be a lag time of 30-50 years before improvements in nitrogen levels are seen in the region’s ground water.
Canterbury Fonterra Farmers’ progress towards some of the Sustainable Dairying Targets.
of significant waterways are fenced and have dairy excluded
The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord defines regular crossing points as “any permanently flowing rivers, streams, drains and springs, more than a metre wide and 30cm deep.”
of regular stock crossing points have bridges or culverts
The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord defines regular crossing points as “those used more than once a month to access the milking shed.”
of farms have collected nutrient management data
The Living Water Te waihora/ lake ellesmere programme
is focused on three key areas
Improving the management of springs and waterways/drains to enhance biodiversity and water quality.
Restoring key wetland areas at Yarrs Flat and Yarrs Lagoon/Ta-rere-kautuku.
Providing opportunities for the local community to engage with and reconnect to their natural environment.
Catchment call out
Fonterra is working alongside the Kaikoura Zone Management Committee to help clean local waterways (for example, Lyell Creek), maintain established areas, and prepare and plant new areas along creeks and streams.