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Landowners,Regional Council united on approach to setting nitrogen limits

Thursday, 19 September 2013 2:35 p.m.

Landowners and Bay of Plenty Regional Council have agreed on an approach for allocating nitrogen loss for land use in the Lake Rotorua catchment.

Council’s Strategy, Policy and Planning Committee this week approved an approach recommended by Regional Council staff and the Lake Rotorua Catchment Stakeholder Advisory Group, which will achieve required nitrogen reductions in the lake through an integrated programme of nitrogen discharge allowances (NDAs), incentives and gorse conversion.

Lake Rotorua Stakeholder Advisory Group chairman Dr Tanira Kingi, said the agreed framework shared the risk, responsibility and cost of achieving the sustainable nitrogen limit set for Lake Rotorua between farmers and the Regional Council.

The approach was the result of a collaborative process to deliver improved water quality and maintain a viable rural sector in the Lake Rotorua catchment, he said.

“We strongly believe this approach will receive wider support during implementation. It provides for a level of business security which will support investment in farms to reduce nitrogen losses and is likely to attract significant industry investment in the development of Farm Nutrient Plans.”

Regional Council General Manager Natural Resource Operations, Warwick Murray, acknowledged that rules for nitrogen limits would have an economic impact on rural land owners but said the council would continue working with them to ensure the best possible outcome for Lake Rotorua and the local rural economy. 

“The Lake Rotorua Stakeholder Advisory Group has provided critical input into how we approach the rules and incentives development for the Lake Rotorua catchment. We are now all in agreement on a way forward – this is a significant achievement for rural landowners, the council and the community,” Mr Murray said.


Q and A

What is the Lake Rotorua Stakeholder Advisory Group?

It was formed in September 2012 and has representatives from the pastoral, water quality and forestry sectors and iwi to provide oversight, advice and recommendations on the development of rules and incentives for the Lake Rotorua catchment.

How did the recommended framework come about?

Representatives from the rural community, Te Arawa land owners and the regional and district councils have met regularly since last November to find a way forward that provides both the economic viability for rural landowners and the necessary nitrogen reductions.

Why is the rules and incentives programme needed?

Council’s proposed Regional Policy Statement sets a nitrogen limit for Lake Rotorua of 435 tonnes per year which will require a reduction of 270 tonnes of nitrogen from pastoral activities. 

Developing rules to limit nitrogen discharges from pastoral activities is part of Council’s Ten Year Plan. 

The first step was to determine the best way of allocating the sustainable limit to pastoral land use activities in the catchment, setting out who can discharge what, and how much, in the catchment.

The agreed framework means rules will deliver 140 tonnes nitrogen reduction through landowner mitigations, the incentive scheme will deliver 100 tonnes and 30 tonnes will be delivered through a gorse project.

How will rural land owners in the Lake Rotorua catchment be affected?

There will be economic and social impacts on pastoral farmers and Regional Council acknowledges the effort and commitment required from pastoral landowners to get where we need to be.

To help landowners with the cost an incentive scheme will be developed.  $45.5 million has been set aside for the incentive fund, although this is dependent on receiving crown funding.

A decision on Crown funding is not expected until December this year.

What happens now?

If the preferred framework is endorsed by Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group, Regional Council and the Lake Rotorua Stakeholder Advisory Group will start work on the development of the rules and implementation.

The rules are expected to be ready for wider community consultation next June.

Rural landowners will need to have approved Farm Nutrient Plans and apply for resource consents by December 2017.

All actions in the Farm Nutrient Plans need to be completed by December 2032 when nitrogen discharge allowances for individual farms must be met.

Key elements of agreed solution:


Nitrogen   target


Actions and   Accountability

Rules Programme

140 tonnes

$5.5   million from incentive fund to help landowners with some of the costs.


-          Approved Farm Nutrient Plans in place on all farms by 1   December 2015.  Plans must include   specific plans for nitrogen reduction.

-          Staged reductions via Farm Nutrient Plans mandated   through resource consents.

-          Individual farmer must apply for resource consents by 1   December 2017

-          Individual farmers obligated to meet nitrogen discharge   limit by 1 December 2032

Incentives Programme

100 tonnes

$40 million

Regional Council accountable to achieve   100 tonne target by 1 December 2022 through incentives scheme.

Gorse Re-vegetation Programme

30 tonnes

Not yet determined.

Regional Council responsible to achieve 30   tonne target in collaboration with farmers and landowners by 1 December 2022   using separate funding.



Lake Rotorua