The quality of water in creeks, streams and rivers all over Southland should improve this winter as farmers are now required to keep their wintering stock out of waterways.
A new rule in the Regional Water Plan comes into effect from next Thursday (1 May) and requires stock to be kept at least 3 metres from any watercourse during intensive winter grazing.
The rule defines winter grazing as: “Grazing of stock between May and September inclusive on fodder crops or pasture to the extent that the grazing results in significant devegetation [the exposure of large areas of bare ground and/or pugging]. This is usually associated with break feeding behind temporary electric fencing.”
Endorsed by Federated Farmers, the rule is a practical measure to improve the quality of water by reducing sedimentation caused by stock trampling the earth close to waterways during break-feeding.
Senior Resource Planner Rachael Millar said that the rule had been supported across the board by farming representatives and environmental interests, including the Southland Fish and Game Council. “The Council has focused on the stock access activity that has the highest risk of adversely affecting water quality.”
Environment Southland publicised the new requirements extensively last year, including making direct contact with contractors, encouraging farmers to set plough lines to take account of the 3 metre rule.
However, Compliance Manager Mark Hunter said he was aware that some farmers had continued to plant crops up to the bank of streams. Without careful planning, grazing these areas could breach the new rule. While the Council prefers education to enforcement, it will act to ensure compliance with its rules.
Aside from intensive winter feeding, farmers are encouraged to keep livestock out of waterways at all times because of the impact they can have on water quality. When cattle have unrestricted access to a waterway or are frequently crossing a waterway – for example on their way to and from the shed – the water quality rules in the Water Plan are likely to be breached.
Environment Southland’s land sustainability staff provide free advice about how to minimise the impact of farming operations on the environment.