MAYOR: Delegation to Wellington starts positive conversations

Published: 23 April 2021

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It’s no secret that one of the biggest issues facing our district at the moment is freshwater, and in particular, how we are to meet the targets and timelines set out in the Government’s freshwater management reforms.

Specifically, many in our community are concerned that the national bottom line attribute state target for nitrate-nitrogen levels is being applied to the drains in the Hekeao/Hinds Plains catchment.

In fact, we are worried that reaching just 2.4mg per litre of soluble nitrate in the catchment is outright impossible at this stage.

Off the back of this, there is also the economic fallout that trying to achieve this level will have for our entire district.

Given these concerns, earlier this month, a delegation of Mid Canterbury representatives including myself travelled to the Beehive to meet with Minister for the Environment, David Parker and Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor.

We wanted to bring our district’s concerns to their attention and start a conversation on how we move forward from here on in.

One of the things we discussed was that adequate time and new technologies will be critical to helping us get soluble nitrate levels down. We did not arrive at our current levels overnight, and it will take time to bring the nitrate levels back down again.

As was reported last week, we were quite heartened by the response we received from both ministers.

Minster Parker acknowledged that our existing target for the Hekeao/Hinds Plains catchment of 6.9mg per litre by 2035 was progress, and he is open to being involved in conversations with Environment Canterbury to consider what ambitious and reasonable interim goals might be for our region.

Following on from our visit to Wellington, our group met with Environment Canterbury officials last week to begin those conversations.

I’d like to acknowledge Rangitata MP Jo Luxton who arranged the meeting at Parliament and who also accompanied the delegation.

Others who joined us were HMV Water CEO Melanie Brooks; Hekeao/Hinds Water Enhancement Trust Chair Peter Powe and Trustee Sir Graeme Harrison; businessman Alister Lilly; and local farmers Alisha Cornwell and Cole Groves.

We all want improved environmental outcomes for our waterways and we’ve already begun to see that happen.

In our conversations moving forward, we’ll be advocating for workable targets that although difficult, are not impossible to achieve, and that enhance the considerable work our community has already done.

Ashburton District Council Mayor, Neil Brown, provides a fortnightly column to local newspapers. This column was featured in the Ashburton Courier on Thursday, 23 April 2021.

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