The government has much to consider after receiving the Land and Water Forum's report on improving water quality earlier this week.
Among the most pressing proposals in the report were calls for government support of primary sector groups on good management practices, the acceleration of initiatives regarding those practices, a stress on urban proactivity, and a heavy focus on sediment.
According to Federated Farmers LAWF representative Chris Allen, many parts of the country are already engaged in these processes, but development needs to continue:
"We'd like to accelerate some of these issues, like the sustainable land use initiative in the lower North Island, where they prioritise the parts of your catchment that have got resting sediments and try catch those bits up. That's all part of good management practice. There are a whole set of prerequisites you need to go through before you do any form of allocation, so getting the main thing of the government supporting the primary sector groups and local government on good management practices is a key part of this, and some of that has already begun."Regarding the urban sector, Allen says it's high time they started stepping up and began planning for solutions to the current issue, as, all though it's going to expensive, "you just can't ignore the problem anymore in many places".
One issue the forum failed to reach consensus on was nutrient allocation. However, Allen says the majority of the table had similarly strong views as to why you shouldn't allocate:
"I can say most of us were firmly of the opinion that you shouldn’t be allocating until you’ve gone through the whole list of things you need to do first, which include setting the limits, working out whether the catchment’s over-allocated, making sure good management practices have been implemented - there’s a whole bunch of things you’ve got to do first. Once you’ve run out of tools in the toolbox, then you start to think about allocating."
Asked what's next in regards to the water issue, Allen says the good work already underway will be continually improved, and that the nation can be somewhat optimistic about the future:
"There’s work that’ll be steaming away on trying to get the good farming practices underway, working on further implementation of what those good practices are in various parts of the country. This work going on in the Ministry for the Environment around what good management practices for the urban sector look like will continue as well, because good management practices are not just about farming. Up and down the country there are limit setting processes that are carrying on.
"We’re cautiously optimistic about the future. The LAWA report showed that water quality is improving and proved the strategies we currently have in place to be working. That certainly keeps people moving, farmers in particular – seeing that all the money and effort isn’t for nothing."
The forum is now in abeyance, and waits for a response from the government, which hopefully will include calls for action on some of their proposals, and subsequent funding to allow the good work of LAWF to continue.