The Otago Regional Council will delay the 2020 start date for new water quality provisions in the region under a new plan change, agreed on January 29.
Plan Change 6AA to the Regional Plan: Water for Otago will postpone the deadline for new rules on discharge contaminant concentrations and nitrogen leaching from April 2020 to April 2026. The regional water plan was first established in 2014 to manage the effects of farming on water quality.
Gwyneth Elsum, ORC general manager for strategy, policy and science, said the latest plan change was a necessary step in the path to better water quality for Otago.
“Certain provisions of water quality rules for rural discharges (Plan Change 6A) were considered ambiguous and unenforceable. Because of this, we know they would not have had the intended effects on water quality, and would only have caused uncertainty for those trying to comply.
“[This] doesn’t mean we are stepping back from our aim to improve water quality. Additional provisions in the pipeline are an interim step towards what will eventually be a new Land and Water Regional Plan for Otago.”
According to ORC, new rules impacting urban and rural water quality are due to be proposed in March, and a new Land and Water Regional Plan will be notified in late 2023.
Michael Laws, Deputy Chairperson for the Dunstan Ward, has apologised to Otago water users for the “failure” of the council, saying “Quite simply, our organisation stuffed it up. Again. Our plans were not fit for purpose, as has been confirmed by independent agencies. It is an institutional failure on our part.
Our only true atonement is to get it right, going forward. And to collectively take responsibility.”
Plan Change 6AA remains subject to appeals until Tuesday, March 24.