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Environment Aotearoa report highlights flexibility challenges

The constraints regional councils face in responding promptly to emerging environmental issues has been highlighted by a new central Government report issued today, says Waikato Regional Council.

The Environment Aotearoa 2015 report outlines a range of environmental problems and challenges faced nationally, including in Waikato.

Waikato Regional Council’s chief executive Vaughan Payne said the monitoring results underline for him how hard it can be for organisations like his to respond quickly and effectively to newly identified challenges or issues.

“It’s not always easy to do something quickly with a new policy or rule - we have very little plan agility. It means that when we see a trend we can’t act promptly to address it. Under our current Resource Management Act regime it takes us six or seven years to get a new rule in place,” Mr Payne said.

A recent example of the types of issues involved was in the Upper Waikato River catchment where the council had little power to address quickly the emerging spate of pine to pasture conversions and their actual and potential impact on the health of the river.

“We want to work with the local government sector and central Government, as well as our iwi partners and stakeholders, to develop new tools to give us greater flexibility to change plans and rules promptly where required,” Mr Payne said.

“We don’t want to circumvent democratic processes or undermine public participation in making major changes. But we also believe it’s essential we have the right tools to act quickly when our precious environment is under threat.”

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