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Published: 2017-03-03 09:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is urging the public to step up and have their say on Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1.

The council has prepared its own submission on the proposed plan, and has received 95 submissions from the public to date.

“Based on requests for information that have been coming through, we are aware sectors and individuals are working on submissions at the moment and we expect more will be lodged in the closing week of this process,” says chief executive Vaughan Payne.

Submissions on the proposed plan close at 5pm on 8 March, 2017, although the council will be considering a proposal from some community members and sectors for a deferral of the submission closing period at an extraordinary council meeting called for this purpose on Monday 6 March.

All documents, including editable submission forms, are available on the council website.

“Managing water quality in the Waikato and Waipā rivers is one of the biggest environmental issues facing our region. For the last two decades our community has told us water quality is their number one priority. Now is their opportunity to have their say on the solutions proposed,” said Mr Payne.

Mr Payne said no policy is perfect when it’s first notified and, as with any policy development, there are aspects of the proposed plan the council believes may need to be refined. “We expect this to happen through the submission process.” 

A submission on the proposed plan has been prepared by staff for council consideration. The submission takes into consideration how the plan can practically be implemented and enforced, how the plan affects the council as a land owner and key infrastructure provider, and how the proposed plan delivers on the regional council’s legal responsibilities for developing resource management policy for freshwater management.

“Our submission supports the overall intent and objectives of the proposed plan while making practical suggestions for improvements in how Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora could be implemented for affected landowners, while ensuring the protection and restoration of the Waikato and Waipā rivers into the future,” Mr Payne said

Key submission areas include the approach to nitrogen management, ownership of nitrogen reference points, including monitoring and enforceability, the implications of the current proposal on commercial vegetable production and addressing some inconsistencies in the proposed plan rules.

Close to its source at Lake Taupo the Waikato River is very clean but it changes dramatically as it makes its way to the sea. Water quality in its lower reaches rank in the bottom half of 500 sites nationally for key indicators such as nitrogen, phosphorus, E.coli (a measure of faecal contamination) and water clarity. 

“Despite years of good work by communities, business and individuals, the water quality of our rivers continues to decline. We need to do something differently,” said Mr Payne

The development of the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 is unique in New Zealand. “The collaborative process followed allowed our community and sector appointed representatives to take ownership of both the problem and the solutions to help restore and protect the health of the Waikato and Waipā rivers.

“The lodging of a submission will ensure that interested people and sectors will continue through the process with the council. Once all submissions are received staff will review them and identify key themes. We will then be able to work with submitters to understand their submission points and look to develop solutions that we can jointly put in front of decision makers. The sooner we receive submissions the sooner we can begin this process.”

“Now is the community’s opportunity to have a say on those proposed solutions. Our rivers are the arteries of our region. If you care about their health and the health of our region, or have any concerns about what’s proposed, make a submission,” said Mr Payne.

To make a submission, learn more about the proposed plan change and the process go to:

www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/healthyrivers

People need to remember to fill out the mandatory information on the forms and indicate what points of the plan they are submitting on.

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