Items of interest from today’s meetings of two of the Council’s key committees, Consents and Regulatory, and Policy and Planning:
Waterways show more improvement
Latest monitoring results show continued improvements in the ecological health of Taranaki’s waterways, building further on strong gains in recent years, the Policy and Planning Committee was told. Ecological health is the Council’s prime measure of freshwater quality and is assessed by examining what sort of tiny creatures are living in waterways. The latest report, for the 2015-16 year, found health is improving at 46 of the 53 sites at which changes can be identified – that’s 87%, the highest percentage to date. Most of the improvements are being recorded in middle to lower catchments of the Taranaki ring plain, in the midst of Taranaki’s farming areas.
Seeing the light on land disposal
Some farmers are opting for an early switch to land disposal of dairy effluent, the Consents and Regulatory Committee was told. The Council is requiring most dairy farmers to switch to land disposal on the expiry of existing resource consents allowing the discharge of treated dairy effluent to waterways. But some are making the move earlier due to issues with their oxidation ponds and in recognition of the fertiliser benefits of the dairy effluent.
Irrigation in the spotlight
The performance of irrigation consent holders in the 2015-16 year was the subject of one of 21 resource consent compliance monitoring annual reports presented to the Consents and Regulatory Committee. Across all 21 reports presented to the committee, there were 58 ‘high’ ratings for environmental performance, 17 ‘good’, 17 ‘improvement required’ and one ‘poor’. The irrigation report, covering 60 consent holders, noted that it was a busy year with high demand. Overall, 47% of irrigation consent holders achieved a high level of environmental performance while 20% required improvement.
Dung beetles doing their bit
It may be the Year of the Rooster according to the Chinese zodiac, but in Taranaki it’s also the Year of the Dung Beetle. The Policy and Planning Committee was told that trial releases of the beetles took place at the Whareroa and Stratford demonstration farms in early January, with another release due to take place in February. The insects rapidly remove and process dung and have proven on-farm benefits. A nationwide farmer-initiated, Government-funded project to import and breed them is now under way, co-ordinated by Beetle Innovations Ltd. A company representative, Shaun Forgie, made a presentation to the committee today.
New year, new timetable
In a departure from long-standing practice, the Consents and Regulatory Committee and Policy and Planning Committee are now both meeting on Tuesdays, instead of on separate days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) as in previous years. The change was suggested by Councillors after last October’s elections and will reduce costs. The committees meet every six weeks, with Consents and Regulatory starting at 9.30am and Policy and Planning starting at 11am.