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Environment Waikato staff submit on Auckland governance

An Environment Waikato staff submission says it is crucial for the continued holistic management of the Waikato River that the regional council’s northern boundary is not moved further south.

The submission to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance is subject to change after it is discussed by regional councillors at a meeting next Wednesday but has been completed before then to meet a commission deadline.

Staff also said the financial implications of boundary changes would be considered further and that they hoped more information on this would be presented during the commission’s hearings.

The submission said keeping the Waikato River catchment currently in Environment Waikato’s area was crucial for best management of the river, particularly in light of the settlement negotiations with Waikato Tainui.

Noting the Waikato River Deed of Settlement being negotiated between Waikato Tainui and the Crown, the submission said the deed would have to be renegotiated if Auckland Regional Council’s boundary was extended to include more of the Waikato River catchment. “Such renegotiation would be a major task.”

But the submission said changes to the regional council’s northern boundary which brought parts of the Mangatawhiri and Mangatangi catchments into Environment Waikato’s area would be welcome. The waters in these rivers ultimately flow into the Waikato River, and bringing the catchments into Environment Waikato’s patch would allow for more integrated management of stream networks and associated wetlands. This would better align with Waikato Tainui’s desire to manage the Waikato River “holistically”, the submission said.

Increasing the portion of the Firth of Thames within the Waikato region would also be welcomed to help provide a consistent and coherent planning framework for marine farmers, recreational users and others in the area.

The submission said that Environment Waikato could manage if all of Franklin District came within its area – a move advocated by the Franklin District Council. However, due to community of interest considerations, staff felt that in such circumstances the Auckland region should retain responsibility for:

  • main arterial route transport management from Auckland to the south, rail electrification for networks servicing Auckland, and Auckland Regional Transport Authority passenger transport
  • marine farming, navigation, safety management and funding in Manukau Harbour
  • management and funding of current Auckland Regional council regional parks

Meanwhile, the submission said there could be civil defence management and pest animal and plant management advantages to all of Franklin District becoming part of Environment Waikato’s area. It also noted that there were a number of farmers “who feel more aligned with the more rurally oriented Waikato Regional Council than with the Auckland Regional Council”.

Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley said the submission would form the basis for discussion by councillors on their preferred stance.

“The review of Auckland’s governance arrangements throws a lot of balls in the air. Environment Waikato will be looking at which are the best ones for us to catch in terms of making regional government in this part of the world operate more efficiently.”

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