We are disappointed at the media release issued by Fish & Game New Zealand this week, which describes “an environmental disaster” and focuses on sediment run-off to rivers, lakes and streams.
Tackling Southland’s water quality is a big, complex challenge that requires us all to work together.
Sediment loss can come from heavy rainfall, disturbance of the riverbed or bank by heavy machinery, or through direct discharges. Farmers are as concerned as anyone about losing soil as this is their most valuable resource.
Southland has experienced record-breaking rain events during November and December and these events are likely to have impacted sediment run-off and the photos presented by Fish & Game appear to directly reflect this.
We know that intensive winter grazing poses a significant risk to water quality in Southland. The proposed Southland Water and Land Plan acknowledges this, and includes specific rules relating to setbacks for cultivation and intensive winter grazing to address these issues. The proposed plan is currently working through the appeals process, which could take some months to complete.
Our land sustainability team offers advice on good management practices and has had winter grazing as a particular focus for the past seven years.
A number of farmers are already trialling different regenerative farming cropping methods, including catch or sequence cropping, to reduce sediment loss and protect their soils from heavy pugging and rainfall. This refers to growing crops on the same field in the same year, one crop being sown after the harvest of the other.
As a regional council, we are working with our partners and our communities to implement programmes, provide regulatory frameworks and support farmers to move towards good management practices and make on-the-ground changes.
A significant part of this is our People, Water and Land Programme - Te Mana o te Tangata, te Wai, te Whenua – which is a partnership between Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama Inc. (the environmental arm of Ngai Tahu ki Murihiku). Its vision is 'inspiring change to improve Southland’s water and land'.
If anyone is concerned about an activity they see that may be impacting the environment they should contact our 24 hour pollution response number on 0800 76 88 45. This reaches our compliance team, who investigate each complaint.
Information about rivers, rainfall, soil moisture and more is available on our website.
Graham Sevicke-Jones, Director Science & Information