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Published: 2015-10-15 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council says a collaborative approach to protecting the health of rivers in the region is best.

It is rejecting today’s Green Party suggestion that it is “sitting on its hands” while the Waikato River continues to be polluted because of ongoing dairy conversions in the river’s upper catchment.

The council says its collaborative approach to solutions – involving river iwi and stakeholders - is designed to find an enduring, community-supported solution to protecting the health of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers. 

The council had responded to the request of the community to make sure that any solutions were informed by strong science and a process that meant key sectors assisted in developing solutions and policy options. The Healthy Rivers/Wai ora collaborative process underway is also within a co-management framework responding to the unique Vision and Strategy for the rivers, and is happening at pace. 

“The days of councils trying to solve such complex problems by issuing quick fixes are gone,” said council chief executive Vaughan Payne.

“We stress that a collaborative approach to solutions involving multiple stakeholders, along with river iwi partners, is the best way of finding a long-term solution that will have community buy-in.”

He said a lot of goodwill and effort had been put in by the Collaborative Stakeholder Group established as part of the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora project, adding that the whole process involved a significant investment in developing a solution prior to public notification of a proposed plan change.

The criticism from the Green Party, which wants a moratorium on Landcorp conversions in the upper Waikato catchment, came after Mr Payne and Cr Alan Livingston, the co-chair of the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee, were questioned by the Primary Production Select Committee at Parliament today.

However, the council said that staff established some years ago that there was no legal mechanism under Waikato’s regional plan, or via other means, for the council to impose any moratorium within a timeframe that would make any meaningful difference.

The council stressed it was not just waiting for the outcome of Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora. It was currently working to better understand and quantify conversion-related issues, and to look at what tools it and others might have to address any identified problems. Also, the council was working actively with a range of landowners to better protect  waterways through various programmes.