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Press Releases Local commitment sees Lake Brunner achieve water quality five years ahead of schedule

Lake Brunner Water Quality

A huge commitment by local farmers, community groups, government agencies and the West Coast Regional Council has seen water quality targets for the West Coast’s largest lake reached five years earlier than planned. 

Environment Minister Nick Smith was on the shores of Lake Brunner / Te Kotuku Whakaoka today (Friday 4 December) to help celebrate the achievement. 

“The success of the programme to restore the water quality of Lake Brunner is an example of how community, regulatory and business interests can come together to produce an excellent result for the environment,” said West Coast Regional Council chair Andrew Robb. “The result is also a win for lake users and the reputation of New Zealand’s farm products in overseas markets.”

Robb said the regional council and its partners set a target for water quality that was not expected to be reached until 2020. “Thanks to the huge amount of cooperation we have received from the community and farmers, especially the Brunner catchment shareholders of Westland Milk Products, we achieved that target this year.”

Robb noted that water quality monitoring in Lake Brunner indicated deteriorating trends for nutrients and water clarity. Of most concern were the levels of phosphorous in the lake, traced mainly to run-off from surrounding farmland. From the early 2000s the regional council worked with farmers to improve water quality, focusing on compliance with regional council rules and improving farm practices

“The enthusiasm and financial commitment from farmers was a major success factor,” Robb said, especially in dairying where the installation of effluent containment systems cost some farmers up to $300,000 per farm. Community and iwi groups also stepped up, helping with riparian planting initiatives in public areas.”

Robb said, “The work in the Lake Brunner catchment shows that we can achieve a balance between using our region’s natural resources and at the same time maintaining or improving our special places for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Westland Milk Products Chair Matt O’Regan said the co-operative was dedicated to helping the Lake Brunner water quality programme.

“With the council, Westland helped identify that land disturbance, fertiliser application regimes and effluent management were contributing to the phosphorus build-up in Lake Brunner. As a result, the West Coast Regional Council updated the rules in its regional land plan and farms in the catchment are now subject to the strictest regulations in the region.   

“Westland’s farmers then focussed on preventing direct discharge of effluent into waterways, improving fertiliser management, and preventing stock access to waterways.”

Each dairy farmer put in a land-based, low application rate effluent disposal system and/or adopted a direct drilling regime for applying waste directly into the soil. Additionally, many farms built new sealed holding ponds for effluent and re-visited their fertiliser regime.  A lot of emphasis went on containment of effluent ensuring that ponds and tanks were sealed with no leakage to ground or surface water.

“Westland supported this initiative by having its environment manager visit each Brunner catchment shareholder and work them to draw up individual farm management plans to help them comply,” O’Regan said.

Both O’Regan and Robb noted that farmers joined efforts with enthusiasm, with many going well beyond the minimum regional requirements. In addition to new plant, many invested heavily in riparian fencing and planting, and installing stock crossings over waterways.

Robb noted that many others contributed to the achievement of the target including the Ministry for the Environment, AgResearch, Landcare Trust, NIWA and Dairy NZ.


Media inquiries to:
Steve Attwood
Communications Manager
C: 027 419 1080

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