Setback rules must be followed; NRC
12 Oct 2022, 1:43 PM
Those cultivating land to grow pasture or crops are being warned to ensure they meet setback rules designed to protect Northland’s water bodies from any adverse effects.
If they want to cultivate their land closer to waterbodies than permitted by rule C.8.2.1 of the Proposed Regional Plan for Northland or the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020, the Northland Regional Council (NRC) is reminding people they need a resource consent to do so.
Council Group Manager – Regulatory Services Colin Dall says rules cover the disturbance of earth by machinery for planting, replanting, tending or harvesting pasture or crops. It includes blading, contour ploughing, ripping, mounding, stepping, contouring, bunding and sediment control measures associated with the activity, but does not include direct drilling, which can be done closer to water bodies without resource consent.
Mr Dall says anyone preparing land to plant pasture or grow crops like maize should be aware of rules in the Proposed Regional Plan. These include a requirement for resource consent for land preparation on erosion prone land or in the catchment of any of Northland’s 20 outstanding lakes or dune lakes with outstanding or high ecological value.
The Proposed Regional Plan rules also requires setbacks from waterbodies; land preparation must be 10m from:
- īnanga spawning sites
- other lakes and natural wetlands
- continually or intermittently flowing rivers (this can be reduced to 5m if the slope of the land adjoining the riverbed is 10 degrees or less and appropriate sediment control measures are installed).
Rule C.8.2.1 can be viewed on the council’s website by downloading the Proposed Regional Plan at: www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan
Mr Dall says the rules are in place to protect water bodies from the adverse effects of sedimentation that can occur when soil is eroded from ploughed or tilled land after rain, and before it’s established with pasture or crops.
Regional council staff had encountered – and in some cases, members of the public had reported – a number of alleged breaches of the setback rule in many parts of the region in the last cultivation season.
In most cases the council suspected people were trying to maximise the use of highly-fertile alluvial land and may be unaware of the setback rules however, ignorance was not an excuse.
“Setbacks have been required since the Proposed Regional Plan’s predecessor (the Regional Water and Soil Plan for Northland) came into effect in mid-2007.”
The council says where possible, it preferred to educate rather than prosecute, however, given the rules had been in place for about 15 years, those breaching them in future were likely to find the council would take a dimmer view, opting for enforcement over education, particularly with those who had already been advised of the rules.
Penalties for breaching the rules include an abatement and/or infringement notices of up to $750 or if the circumstances warrant, possible prosecution action.
Aside from the rules, it’s not good practice to cultivate without setbacks as the nearby water bodies – which are invariably used by many people for stock and/or human drinking water or for irrigation – could all be impacted, especially during heavy rain.
“Essentially that’s the reason for the rule.”
“Sediment has a direct impact on waterways and living organisms; it can physically smother aquatic life, damage fish gills and mouth parts, increases temperature and murkiness and prevents light penetrating the water, all of which significantly alter fish habitats.”
“Drinking water supplies are also compromised and may need to be shut down until the water clears.”
Mr Dall says sediment can also lead to blocked streams resulting in flooding, and also transports other pollutants such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons, nutrients and toxic substances into streams and ultimately to estuaries and coastal waters.
“Sedimentation is the largest cause of shellfish loss in our marine environment.”