Four independent hearings commissioners have been appointed to the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Plan Change 1 hearings panel.
The recommendation from the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee was backed by the council at its December 2017 meeting. The panel is: Greg Hill (chairperson), Basil Morrison, Trevor Robinson and Sheena Tepania. A fifth commissioner is no longer available, so the council will be undertaking a process to fill that vacancy as soon as possible.
The panel met for the first time last Friday and will be responsible for hearing and deliberating on submissions to the proposed plan change for the Waikato and Waipā rivers, and then making a recommendation to the council.
The plan change is the first step in an 80 year journey to achieve rivers that are swimmable and safe for food gathering along their entire length, and achieve the requirements of Te Ture Waimana o Te Awa Waikato (The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River).
A co-governance approach – involving the regional council, River Iwi and Waikato River Authority – was adopted in appointing the commissioners.
Chair Alan Livingston said, “A rigorous selection process and robust evaluation criteria was approved by the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee and council, and I appreciate the commitment to following best practice.
“It’s essential the panel has the right mix of skills and legislative knowledge given the importance of the proposed plan change, and to have a team of this overall calibre gives me a good deal of confidence,” Cr Livingston said.
The panel is required to have experience as independent hearings commissioners and extensive working knowledge of the Resource Management Act (RMA) and The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River.
Selection criteria also included accreditation for decision making under the RMA and an understanding of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
In addition, commissioners needed to have a proven record of understanding complex resource management issues and a familiarity with the Waikato and Waipā river catchments.
Cr Livingston said: “The hearings commissioners selected bring a robust and balanced mix to the table with special technical expertise in resource management planning, resource management law, rural community and farming knowledge and mātauranga Māori/tikanga perspective.”
Hearings for the proposed plan change are expected to commence in late 2018.
Visit waikatoregion.govt.nz/healthyrivers to find out more about Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Plan Change 1.
Greg Hill is a resource management planner and an accredited independent hearings commissioner. He has extensive experience chairing hearings under the Resource Management Act, with a focus on land, water, and coastal policy issues as well as land use planning. He has extensive knowledge of the Vision and Strategy and experience with complex water quality issues.
Basil Morrison is an accredited independent hearings commissioner from the Waikato with extensive experience on hearings panels. As a former farmer and Mayor of the Hauraki District Council, he has an understanding of and experience with rural communities in the catchment. Mr Morrison has held positions in the local community at both a regional and national level and is a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and former president of Local Government New Zealand.
Trevor Robinson is a specialist in environmental law and an accredited independent hearings commissioner, with extensive experience practising under the Resource Management Act. Mr Robinson acted as lead counsel on a range of highly contested plan changes, including Waikato Regional Plan Review Variation 2 and Variation 6. He has experience in complex land use planning issues and comprehensive knowledge of the Waikato and Waipā River catchments and the Vision and Strategy.
Sheena Tepania is an accredited independent hearings commissioner with mātauranga Māori/tikanga perspective and extensive experience in resource management law and environmental management from a te ao Māori perspective. She has experience practising as a lawyer, lecturer and consultant in relation to Treaty claims and Māori land issues. She also has a background in iwi environmental management and detailed knowledge of the Vision and Strategy.