Farmers and the regional council need to work together to clean up some of the worst water in Otago, Pomahaka residents have been told.
Co-operation was the key message at two public meetings, held in Tapanui and Clinton this month, discussing the future of water quality in the Pomahaka catchment.
Pomahaka Farmers Water Care Group chairman Lloyd McCall told those gathered at the West Otago Community Centre the group was a way for the community to come together and work with the Otago Regional Council to collectively lift the quality of water in the area.
He encouraged farmers to tell their “neighbours and [their] neighbours’ neighbours” about the group, to ensure success.
“If we don’t all buy into it, it’s not going to be any good. You can have one fellow doing everything perfect and if everything around it is going to custard, he’s going to get watered out.”
The catchment is a hot spot, meaning sites within it rate among the worst for water quality in Otago.
The council will increase testing in the catchment to collect more data, which will be combined with results from independent testing the Pomahaka group will fund.
Council resource science manager Matt Hickey explained new water quality rules introduced under Plan Change 6A.
Water in the upper Pomahaka catchment was subject to some of the toughest limits in the world, as it was of such high quality, he said.
The limits were less strict for the rest of the catchment, but several of the lower catchment testing sites were still exceeding limits for nitrogen and phosphorus in the water.
The increased testing would help the council pinpoint what was affecting water quality in each area, he said.
“It allows us to segment the catchment and say ‘this part of the catchment is contributing two thirds of the E.coli. What’s going on?’.”
Farmers at the meeting raised concerns they were being blamed for contamination that other sectors, such as town sewerage systems and truck waste, might contribute to.
McCall disagreed, saying farmers had a vested interest in water quality and should welcome more information.
“We’re out to get a picture of the water quality. We’re not out to be police.”
The group would test 13 sites across the catchment up to five times a year, funded by the farmers who had signed up to the group.
The group planned to seek funding to help meet the costs of future testing.