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Published: 2013-03-28 00:00:00

Media release from Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/ Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai.
Collaboration with a range of stakeholder groups is to be a key feature of new moves to protect and restore the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers, under theHealthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora He Rautaki Whakapaipai

It is hoped the collaboration over river-related changes to the Waikato Regional Plan can help avoid issues ending up in the Environment Court.

Waikato Regional Council has today signed off on how the council and its river iwi partners will work with stakeholders to develop changes to the regional plan relating to the rivers.

The approved stakeholder engagement strategy ensures a diverse range of stakeholders will have meaningful input into developing the plan change.

A key feature of the strategy is a collaborative stakeholder group. This group will comprise representatives of stakeholder organisations and members of the community. It will include representatives from farming, forestry, environmental and recreational interests, energy, tourism, business, councils and tangata whenua.

A transparent nomination and selection process will be used in forming the collaborative stakeholder group.

Once formed, the group will act as the central channel for stakeholder and broader community involvement in the project. A particular benefit of establishing a collaborative stakeholder group is that it gives people involved time to intensively review and understand the complexity of the project.

The stakeholder engagement strategy is consistent with the proposed changes signalled in Government’s Fresh Start for Fresh Water reforms, taking into account the unique co-management legislation in place in the Waikato and Waipa catchments.

The draft terms of reference for the collaborative stakeholder group were presented to the council’s land and water quality subcommittee earlier today. Discussions will soon begin with stakeholders about these terms of reference as a first step in creating a collaborative stakeholder group.

The council’s land and water quality sub-committee chair Norm Barker said the collaborative process marked “a major step change in the way we work and puts us at the forefront of best practice amongst regional councils, and almost ahead of the government on this point.

“Now the action starts and let’s embrace it. I know the community wishes to see an end to the costly, divisive, adversarial environment court processes.

“I look forward to meeting all the collaborative process milestones the government is proposing that will keep us out of the environment court.”