The adoption of a new policy framework for managing the region’s natural and physical resources is a key step toward securing government funding for the Waikato Expressway and other infrastructure development, says chief executive Bob Laing.
Environment Waikato today adopted the proposed Waikato Regional Policy Statement (RPS), a far-reaching planning tool that enables the use of natural resources, such as water and land, and allows for the development of roads, infrastructure and buildings in ways that maintain a healthy environment.
Under the Resource Management Act (RMA), the RPS is required to identify the significant resource management issues for the Waikato region and set out how the regional community will manage resources such as air, biodiversity, coastal environments, freshwater, geothermal resources, landscapes, land and soils in ways that provide for the present without compromising the ability of future generations to provide for their own needs.
The proposed Waikato RPS also aims to give certainty to where residential, commercial and industrial development can occur across the Hamilton city, Waipa and Waikato district areas over the next 50 years.
"By anchoring settlement and work patterns across these three territorial council areas, and integrating these with our land transport strategy, government funding agencies will look more favourably on investing in the Waikato," Mr Laing said.
"For example, the NZ Transport Agency has told us the adoption of these policies integrating land use and transport planning will add further certainty to the ongoing funding of the Waikato Expressway."
The proposed RPS also looks to do more to protect water bodies of high quality and improve those which have become degraded.
"The community in general places a high value of having good water quality, which supports key industries such as farming and tourism, as well as providing for recreation and protecting aquatic life.
"The proposed policies in the RPS build on the good collaborative work among the council, farmers, industry, iwi and others to put in place strategies and actions to improve water quality."
The RPS also tackles the region’s other key resource management issues which include the declining state of the region’s natural resources, adaptation to a changing climate, encouraging energy conservation and efficiencies, the way we use and develop land, protection of the Waikato River and the relationship of tangata whenua with the environment.
"The contents of the RPS are vitally important to our quality of life in the Waikato region," Mr Laing said.
As the RPS directly influences what councils will need to do to protect and enhance the Waikato environment and guides the processing of resource consents, extensive consultation and collaboration with councils, iwi and industry has been a hallmark of the development of the proposed RPS, he said.
The council instructed staff to continue working closely with local councils and stakeholders on any yet-to-be resolved issues with the proposed RPS.
A key change between the current RPS and the new document is the move to co-governance of resource management between the regional council and iwi. The council’s iwi partners, Tuwharetoa, Maniapoto, Raukawa, Waikato-Tainui, Hauraki and Te Arawa, have participated in the drafting of the RPS over the past 18 months.
Of particular note is the inclusion in the proposed RPS of the Vision and Strategy/Te Ture Whaimana for the protection of the Waikato River, established as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui. The document has unique legislative status and has been deemed into the proposed RPS. It requires all other parts of the proposed RPS to be consistent with it and must also be given effect to by plans developed and administered by all councils along the river.
Councillors voted 10 to 2 to adopt the proposed RPS for formal notification on 3 November. The delay in notification allows for regional boundary changes that come into effect on 1 November as part of the creation of the new Auckland Council.
Submissions on the proposed RPS will close 28 February 2011.