Landowners in the Waipā and Waikato river catchments are being urged to visit Waikato Regional Council at Fieldays to understand what’s currently on the table as part of Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1.
The council is mailing a brochure to just over 10,000 landowners in the catchment this week outlining key components of the proposed plan, and what landowners can be thinking about now, to ensure they’re well placed when final decisions are anticipated to be made next year.
While the proposed plan still has a hearings process to go through, landowners will need to be planning to complete registration of their property with the council or provide a nitrogen reference point (NRP), as currently proposed in the plan.
“We still have a hearings process to go through and parts of the plan may change as a result of that. What we’re saying to landowners is if they understand what’s currently proposed, the information they may need to provide or the work they may need to carry out on their properties, they will be well placed when final decisions are made,” says chief executive Vaughan Payne.
“Come and see us at Fieldays and talk through any questions you may have about Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora. We’re here to help and Fieldays is the perfect opportunity for you to see us.”
Mr Payne said as part of the submission process the council was working with industry and sector organisations to jointly identify areas of the plan which could be improved.
“No plan is perfect when it’s first notified, so through the submission process we want to achieve a plan that is workable for all landowners and delivers on the water quality goals we all aspire to,” Mr Payne said.
Key components of the proposed plan that landowners need to be more responsive to currently include:
Registration for all properties in the Waikato and Waipā river catchments over two hectares by 31 March 2019. This will affect many small block holders, lifestyle property owners or even equine businesses who still may not be aware of what’s proposed.
Provision of a nitrogen reference point (NRP) by 31 March 2019. This will affect most properties over 20 hectares and commercial vegetable growers. If landowners keep good records now the cost of preparing this information could be reduced.
Creation of a farm environment plan (FEP). This will affect most properties farming over 20 hectares. FEPss are tailored to identify and manage the four key contaminants - nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria - on your property, setting out specific timeframes for work to be done. Under the proposed plan the first FEPs will be due by 1 July 2020. Landowners can start thinking about work on their property now by using the Farm Menus. See www.farmmenus.org.nz(external link).
Mr Payne said through the annual plan and long term plan process the council was preparing to make landowners’ jobs easier. The council is investing $2.74 million over the next 12 months to:
Working with industry and sectors to help landowners understand FEP requirements
Approval, certification and audit systems for industry schemes and rural professionals
Preparing to process and monitor resource consent applications
Building IT systems to support landowners to lodge their registration, NRPs, and FEPs
Developing environmental monitoring and reporting tools to track our progress
Fresh water is our most important resource for the future and water quality is the number one environmental issue for our region.
Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 gives effect to the National Policy Statement on the Management of Freshwater (2014) and the primary direction setting document for the Waikato and Waipā rivers, Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato – The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River, adopted by Government as part of Treaty settlement legislation.
This is the first decade of an 80-year journey for our region to make the Waikato and Waipā rivers swimmable and safe for food collecting along their entire length, as required by the Vision and Strategy.
A lot of good work and large investment has already gone towards improving water quality in the Waikato and Waipā rivers including approximately $60 million per year invested by urban ratepayers towards improving wastewater discharge, $220 million allocated to the Waikato River Authority to clean up our rivers and $80 million allocated to the Lake Taupō Protection Trust to clean up Lake Taupō.
Healthy Rivers Wai Ora ensures we are all playing our part.
In December 2016 a portion of the proposed plan change was withdrawn to allow consultation with Hauraki Iwi Authorities. Once that consultation process is complete and recommendations are made, these recommendations will be considered by the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee and then full council to make a decision to notify the withdrawn area and call for submissions.
More than 1000 submissions have been received on the proposed plan to date. Once submissions have been received on the Hauraki portion these will be summarised and both sets of summaries will be release together to allow for one hearings and decisions process.
Five commissioners to hear submissions are expected to be appointed in mid-2017. Hearings are expected to be held in early 2018.