Water – balancing environmental and productive demands

Water is a finite resource. While it appears to flow endlessly down our rivers, and is pumped perpetually from the ground, there is only so much to go around. Effective management of our water resource is vital to ensure its benefits can be fully captured to optimise the productivity of our land, and ensure New Zealand maintains its clean green image.

A large amount of legislation has been introduced from both Central Government and Regional Councils to ensure the quality of our waterways are maintained or improved. There is some belief that these imposed standards are not tough enough, however these rules need to be balanced to ensure land use practices remain sustainable, not only from an environmental perspective but also from a financial and productive standpoint.

From a financial perspective, if the land is not profitable, land owners will have no capital to invest in their properties ensuring rules such as fencing waterways, are complied with. From a productive perspective, it is paramount that we produce enough food to feed our expanding population. There is a growing disconnect between the urban population and the land; policy setting needs to address protection and enhancement of our water resources, but we also need to be realistic and understand that food does not simply just appear in the supermarket.

Most farmers and growers see themselves as custodians of the land, and are extremely proud and passionate about their properties. The majority are also farming for future generations and do not want to see a deterioration of water quality over their lifetime. It’s also true that most farmers are not nutrient specialists, relying instead on recommendations for nutrient inputs to ensure productivity is maintained or enhanced, and excess nutrients are not lost into waterways.

The introduction of Regional Plans means that farmers will have a better understanding of the way nutrients move through their property, which should have both financial and environmental benefits. These plans do come at a cost, but this needs to be weighed against the long-term image of land based practices within this country. New Zealanders want to improve water quality, and this needs to be a collaborative effort throughout a varied range of industries and communities.

Regional Plans will also introduce tougher rules around low flow levels in our streams and rivers, with water takes being tightly monitored to ensure a better allocation of our finite water resource. Resource Consents for water takes are likely to become more valuable, especially for properties in water-short areas.

Various water catchments within Hawke’s Bay are currently in a ‘fully allocated’ or ‘over-allocated’ state. This includes the Tukituki, Karamu and Ngaruroro catchments. Land owners of properties in these areas should be very aware of their Resource Consent limits, ensuring they manage their water efficiently. There is a risk in these areas that if you are not using your full water allocation, your allocation may be reduced back to a level aligning with actual water usage, which could impact the future land use of your property, and ultimately value.

Water is a valuable resource; continuing to increase in value as issues around water quality and quantity become more prevalent. Land owners need to use water efficiently; seeking advice to minimise environmental impacts of their production systems while water quality is maximised.

About the writer – Jay Sorensen is a Director, Registered Rural Valuer and Nutrient Specialist at Logan Stone. Jay and his team have the expertise to provide independent Nutrient Budgets and Farm Environmental Plans that will satisfy Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Requirements; along with advice if you are looking at purchasing or selling rural property. We want to work with landowners to ensure they get the best outcome possible not only from an environmental viewpoint but also from a financial and farm workability perspective.

If you require independent advice around these issues, or other property related matters, or wish to discuss how these changes may impact your property, feel free to contact Jay on 027 498 9932 / jay.sorensen@loganstone.co.nz

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