Part of the northeast Waikato is to be withdrawn from the currently notified Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 – Waikato and Waipa River Catchments to allow for consultation with Hauraki iwi to occur.
The land area of just over 120,000 hectares to be withdrawn fans out from just north of Morrinsville, northward along the eastern side of Lake Waikare to Tuakau, across to the Hunua Ranges, to the northern regional boundary. The land involved is about 11 per cent of the Waikato and Waipa rivers catchment in total. It has 6135 unique ratepayers (about six per cent of landowners affected by the plan change), including those in small centres like Te Kauwhata.
The area includes the towns of Te Kauwhata, Meremere, Mercer, Pokeno, Waeranga and Maramarua, and key water bodies, including part of the main stem of the Waikato River, the Whangamarino Wetland, Maramarua River, Whangamarino River, Mangatawhiri River, Mangatangi Stream, Upper Mangatawhiri Reservoir and the Mangatangi Reservoir.
The area being withdrawn from the plan change for now relates to an area of interest that Hauraki iwi hold in the catchment. The withdrawal comes after Hauraki iwi authorities raised concerns regarding consultation with them during the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora project, which developed the proposed plan change to start achieving the Crown-iwi Vision and Strategy for the Waikato and Waipa rivers.
Late last month, the council passed a unanimous resolution to withdraw that part of the plan where Hauraki iwi authorities have an interest so that formal consultation could take place. This resolution was supported by the council’s five river iwi partners.
“Consultation with those Hauraki iwi authorities who have an interest in the catchment will enable issues of concern to be identified and how these issues could be addressed,” said council chief executive Vaughan Payne.
“Waikato Regional Council intends that the area being withdrawn may be re-incorporated into the plan change process next year.”
For the time period that this area is withdrawn the provisions of Plan Change 1 will not apply to landowners in that area but the current regional plan still applies. Affected landowners can still submit on the provisions in Plan Change 1 in general, but will need to wait until after the consultation period with Hauraki iwi to submit on specific points on any amended proposed plan change as it relates to their area. Mr Payne stressed no submission already made on the area will be wasted.
The background to the situation is that the council consulted with five river iwi partners over the formulation of the plan change. The five river iwi involved have co-governance interests in the Waikato and Waipa rivers after Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
Hauraki iwi also have an interest in the area and as such the council has been considering consultation with the relevant Hauraki iwi. The council and Hauraki have had some conversations on this matter. However, in light of legal proceedings, the council has decided the best way to manage things is to withdraw the relevant area to allow for consultation with Hauraki to occur.
“Our latest decision to remove this specific area from the plan change process for now will allow us to chart a managed path forward,” said Mr Payne.
“We will continue to work closely with Hauraki iwi, the five river iwi partners, stakeholders and the wider community on our objective of restoring and protecting the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers through this ground-breaking plan change process. It’s essential we get things right from both process and river protection perspectives.”
The council says affected landowners are being written to informing them of the change.