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Consultation follows environment court decision

Environment Waikato will now begin consultation with communities about the best ways of safeguarding water quality in the Region, following the Environment Court’s rejection of a challenge to its proposed Regional Plan.

In a case involving debate about the best way to protect water quality in the Waikato River and other waterways in the Region, the Ecologic Foundation (formerly the Maruia Society) had appealed against provisions in Environment Waikato’s proposed Regional Plan related to fertiliser use and nutrient runoff.

However, after a brief hearing, the Environment Court ruled that Ecologic did not have jurisdiction to seek its proposed changes to the Regional Plan.

“This means we will now get on with the consultation process with our communities about ways of maintaining and enhancing water quality standards throughout the Region,” Environment Waikato chairman Jenni Vernon said.

She said that both Environment Waikato and Ecologic believed that regulations were needed to limit fertiliser use in sensitive catchments – but they had disagreed about the best way to achieve this objective, and also the list of which catchments were considered “sensitive”.

“At Environment Waikato, we know it is important to consult the farming community first before introducing rules to limit nitrogen run-off into sensitive catchments – where such rules prove to be necessary,” she said.

“Ecologic, on the other hand, had suggested in their appeal that this process would take too long. They were seeking to have rules put into place this year for priority catchments, with a proviso that farmers be given till 2007 to get their nutrient budget plans in place.”

She said that Environment Waikato believed community consultation was vital for getting the farming community on board and actively supportive of the need to reduce nutrient run-off.

“We believe that if we are going to impose rules on the farming community, then they have the right to have their say on those rules.

“Just like the Smokefree legislation, if people understand the reasons why controls are being imposed, then they are much more likely to be supportive.”

Now that the Ecologic appeal had been rejected, Environment Waikato would proceed with its process of community consultation about the best ways of maintaining and enhancing water quality.

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