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Published: 2010-02-18 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is looking forward to working with Waikato-Tainui and other iwi to achieve the shared vision of a clean and healthy Waikato River.

That vision is set out in the agreement between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui over management of the Waikato River between Karāpiro and Te Pūaha o Waikato (Port Waikato).
At an extraordinary meeting today, Environment Waikato’s council approved a submission on the amended Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill. The council meeting reiterated EW’s commitment to making the legislation ‘workable’.

The amended bill gives greater clarity about expectations and the scope of work. This has raised the council’s concerns about the costs of achieving the changes required.

Acting chairman John Fisher said the council strongly supported the agreement’s focus on the health of the Waikato River and would continue to advocate for Crown funding to help EW make the changes needed to better meets the aspirations of Waikato-Tainui.

The council’s submission emphasizes appreciation of the Crown’s willingness to incorporate earlier EW suggestions to make the co-management framework work effectively.

The submission largely aims to clarify issues around the practical aspects of implementing the agreement into legislation covering statutory processes, the Clean-Up Trust’s funding, consent hearings, joint management agreements, customary activities and flood management on Crown-owned river-side land.

EW’s submission says its initial estimates indicate the need for new money or the re-prioritisation of existing staff time, and the consequential removal of other work programmes. The council will need to budget approximately $500,000 a year over the next three years to fund the establishment of co-management arrangements, including:

· Development of joint management agreements (JMAs)

· Development of the integrated river management plan (based on the scoping study expected to be completed by NIWA in June 2010)

· Additional work associated with developing the Regional Policy Statement around the Vision and Strategy

· Additional reporting to support the Waikato River Authority

· Technical support by staff to the Environment Waikato elected members on the Waikato River Authority.

"It’s fair to say we are apprehensive about the amount of new work ahead but we are optimistic things will be worked through constructively and we’ll see improvements in the health of the river over time," Cr Fisher said.

The agreement sets up a Waikato River Authority made up of Crown and iwi-appointed members, including the other iwi with interests along the river - Maniapoto, Raukawa, Te Arawa and Tūwharetoa. Local communities will be represented on the authority by two people, one nominated by Environment Waikato, the other by local councils.  
The authority will administer a $210 million contestable fund - $7 million a year for 30 years – which will be available to iwi, local authorities, landowners and others for initiatives that contribute to cleaning up the river.
It will also monitor the direction-setting Vision and Strategy document, Te Ture Whaimana, which aims to restore and protect the Waikato River. The Vision and Strategy will form part of the Waikato Regional Policy Statement (RPS) and be given effect through all councils’ plans under the Resource Management Act.

The legislation is due to come into force in June 2010.