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Otago Regional Council (ORC)

The Otago Regional Council provides regulations and guidance for managing natural resources (water, air, land) in the Otago region. It is charged with the actual day-to-day implementation of environmental policy, especially with regards to water management.

The Otago Regional Council is manages water resources and that influences galaxiids, as freshwater fish. So we talked to Matt Dale,  Water Resource Scientist from Otago Regional Council to understand the link between resource management and galaxiids.

 ORC manages water resources through resource consents, catchment water allocation committees, minimum flow settings, and monitoring. It determines flow requirements for fishery populations. 

ORC also, as well as DOC, monitors river sites. Over 100 monitoring sites have been established, and are sampled for biological, chemical and/or trophic information.  Using this data they advise on water use, determine required flow levels, provide information to farmers and make decisions about resource consents. 

Functions of ORC that might influence native fish:

  • Some communities in Otago region use historic mining privileges for water takes. However, transition to new resource consents will happen in 2021. Water use will have to change and ORC is assisting in this transition. Generally, less water will be taken from streams. At some sites low water levels have prevented trout passage to the streams with galaxiids, insuring survival of native fish. High water takes will be maintained for those sites to prevent trout invasions.  
  • ORC provides information about fish distribution on request of interested parties. It is a landowner’s responsibility to provide information about fauna in his/her stream. Unfortunately, in many cases they are not aware of the presence of galaxiids that might be affected by a change of consents on their land.  However, ORC can predict the presence of native fish due to their knowledge of the surrounding sites. They take this into account when issuing resource consents.
  •  Pest control. ORC also inspects animal pests; however, freshwater invasive fish like trout are not officially considered a pest.
  • Guidance and information. The ORC develops council plans and guidelines for good farming practices.  Council staff advise landowners on the regulations their land use operations must comply with. The ORC shares this information through field days, farm visits, work with schools, publications and answering public enquiries. The ORC Land Resources team organises community-based catchment programmes around Otago to share the information more effectively. 
  • The Dairy Farming Waterway Protection Programme set a target of total exclusion of dairy cows from waterways in Otago by the end of June 2005. While this date has now passed, promotion of waterway protection is an ongoing activity. Fencing dairy cows from waterways is the most effective way to prevent degradation of river banks and protect water quality; and it is the best option for farmers to comply with rule on disturbance of the bed of any lake or river by livestock and meet the goal of the ORC to have 100% of waterways protected from dairy cows. The ORC also tries to promote the benefits of riparian buffers and fencing, including better water quality, better aquatic habitat, more stable stream banks, reduced stock losses in waterways, reduced drain maintenance costs.

People in ORC that work with water:

The Land Resources Team is responsible for sustainable land and water management in Otago. They advise communities in the management of the local resources.  (Land sustainability/land resources group)
Catchment groups and water allocation committees work with issues of water quality and develop best strategies for water allocation.
Matthew Dale, Otago Regional Council

Legislation

The ORC’s actions and responsibilities are controlled mainly by these acts:

  • Resource Management Act 1991 (usually called the RMA). Sets out how the environment should be managed. It requires regional councils to set minimum flows and allocation limits to control the amount of water in the river.  
  • Local Government Act 2002 – “This act provides for democratic and effective local government which recognizes the diversity of New Zealand communities.”
  • Biosecurity Act 1993. “Law relating to the exclusion, eradication, and effective management of pests and unwanted  organisms.”

Policy development:

  • The Regional Policy Statement (RPS) provides an overview of the resource management issues facing the Otago region. It sets policy and provides overarching guidance for the development and implementation of regional plans and district plans within Otago. 
  • The ORC has developed four regional plans (Air, Coast, Waste and Water), which provide detailed policy and regulate the impacts of people on the natural and physical environment. These plans are needed because the Resource Management Act (RMA) restricts certain uses of the coastal marine area, beds of lakes and rivers, water and discharges (unless expressly allowed by a national environmental standard, a rule in a regional plan, or a resource consent). Anyone planning to do something that has not been expressly allowed must apply for a resource consent from the Council. This is additional to any land use consent that may be required from the territorial authority under their district plan.
 


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