A programme to improve the Taharua catchment is back to square one after Ravensdown was forced to withdraw its eco-n product which was developed to minimise the impact of dairy farming.
The product was a key component of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's plan to work with farmers in the catchment, between Napier and Taupo, to improve waterways.
Ravensdown suspended the sales and application of eco-n because it contained the DCD compound which is applied to pasture to reduce nitrate leaching into waterways.
DCD has been used in New Zealand safely for nearly a decade but last year the US Food and Drug Administration added it to a list of substances to test for.
The council's regional planning committee was updated on the eco-n product withdrawal at its meeting yesterday.
Land management adviser Brendan Powell and senior policy planner Chris Reed said the product could not be used until an international standard was in place and the Ministry of Primary Industries indicated that could take five years.
The ministry had also declined the council's application to its "fresh water clean up fund" for the Taharua project which would have included about $300,000 for farmers to use on riparian planting in the catchment.
"The reason they gave for that is firstly they felt that funding eco-n would set the wrong precedent and it was also declined in the context of government cuts," Mr Powell said.
"And so on the back of that we lose funding for the riparian work because it was not seen as significant enough unless it was part of a broader package of measures."
Mr Powell said losing the package meant the regional council would also lose the support from Lincoln University to help study adaptive catchment management measures.
"This sort of leaves us heading towards square one again. It means that finding a solution in that catchment will now be a lot harder because the options are limited. It could have significant implications in the future, depending on which way the council now wants to head."
The council was reluctant to use "heavy handed" regulations to force farmers to reduce their nutrient use on the land. The committee heard that there had been more than $100,000 spent voluntarily by farmers in the Taharua catchment, on initiatives such as riparian planting.
Mr Reed said it may be a case of continuing to encourage the same voluntary behaviour to improve land management.
A further update on possible options will be reported to the council's environment and services committee on April 17.