The latest on Horizons Regional Council's One Plan has riled a lot of farmers but it's too soon to get upset, Wanganui's Horizons councillors Greg Cox and Bob Walker say.
"It's too early to come out and say 'This is it and this is how it's going to operate'."
On August 31, the Environment Court's Judge C J Thompson ruled on points of the plan that could not be settled by mediation.
His rulings established some environmental bottom lines which could end up being applied nationwide, due to the appeal and precedent processes in courts.
The most contentious issue was measures to prevent bacteria and nutrients, especially nitrogen, entering waterways where they can boost algae and pest plants and make the water undrinkable.
Half of the nutrients in the region's waterways arrive there from dairy farms.
Judge Thompson ruled that all intensive farms in the region's priority catchments must have detailed nutrient management plans to reduce this.
And any farm anywhere in the region converting to more intensive land use must also have one.
For the plan, intensive land use includes irrigated sheep and beef farms, cropping and horticulture along with dairying.
Other rulings that have got farmers fired up are resource consents needed to cultivate land with more than 20 degrees of slope, and keeping cultivation and forestry set back 5-10 metres from waterways.
This is probably the biggest issue for Wanganui hill country farmers.
Land disturbance - including cultivation and trackmaking - of more than 2500 square metres needs a resource consent. This will affect Waimarino market gardeners.
The judge noted the region had only 23 per cent of its original vegetation cover and 3 per cent of its original wetlands. When the plan becomes operational destroying or altering any remaining wetland or other pockets of indigenous biodiversity will need resource consent.
The rulings still need to have procedures attached to them and be written into a final plan and approved. Whatever form they take will not become operational until 2013 at the earliest.
Up until Tuesday, the rulings may be appealed to the High Court - but only with good reason and on points of law.
Federated Farmers has said the plan will be bad for everyone in the Horizons region.
"We know that there will be a lot of farmers who can't meet these [nutrient] targets. They will be economically constrained and that will have a serious effect on their communities. The economic prosperity of the region is going to suffer considerably," Manawatu/Rangitikei Federated Farmers policy adviser Tessa Mills said.
The court's assessment was different. It stated some farmers would need to change their practices to get their nutrient losses within the plan's limits, but that in most cases it could be done at acceptable cost.
Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon has said the council was committed to supporting farmers to make any changes needed, and would engage with stakeholders to decide how the rulings would be enforced.
The council has a toll-free number for people with questions about the plan: 0508 417 526. There is also information on its website.