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Published: 2009-07-17 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is backing a proposed change to its northern boundary saying it will help improve management of the Waikato River and Firth of Thames.

In its submission to the select committee on Auckland governance, the regional council says it supports the change to the regional boundary proposed in the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill.

The bill directs the Local Government Commission to ensure the southern boundary of Auckland – Waikato’s northern boundary – follows existing boundaries, with the exception of the Mangatawhiri River and Mangatangi Stream catchments and part of Franklin district between the Mangatangi Stream and the Firth of Thames. These areas would move from the Auckland region into Waikato.

“We believe the change proposed by the Bill will provide significant benefits for the integrated management of the Waikato River and the Firth of Thames,” said Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley.

Whole-of-catchment management - a key local government principle for the past 20 years – enables effective land and water management and avoids inconsistent management of water bodies by multiple agencies with differing objectives.

Cr Buckley said Environment Waikato’s submission emphasised the importance of the council maintaining its ability to manage the Waikato River catchment in an integrated way.

“We must be able to manage all the inter-related activities that impact on the catchment. These include, for example, the influence of pest management on erosion control, which in turn can influence sedimentation and flooding; or the effects of land use on water quality which in turn affects biodiversity,” he said.

“This ability to integrate land use and river management is an essential part of the Crown’s treaty settlement with Waikato-Tainui to clean up the Waikato River.”

Environment Waikato also welcomes the recommendation that would see most of the Firth of Thames come into the Waikato region.

“This is completely in line with our view that catchments must be managed in an integrated way - we believe this would ensure more consistent and coherent implementation of regional council responsibilities such as navigation safety, coastal access, management of coastal erosion, pollution response, and marine farming.”

In its submission, Environment Waikato suggests there might be benefits in the area between the Mangatangi Stream and the firth becoming part of Hauraki, rather than Waikato district, as proposed. This is because Hauraki already manages land use next to the inner firth boundary, including the internationally significant seabird breeding areas.

Cr Buckley said Auckland Regional Council’s fears that regional park and water supply assets would transfer to Waikato were unfounded.

“Our submission is very clear on this - Environment Waikato accepts these assets should remain in the ownership of the Auckland Council and management of these would continue in much the same way as present,” he said.

“The fact that Auckland’s council would own parks and infrastructure in the Waikato region is not relevant to this discussion about regional boundary determination.”

The boundaries of the Auckland region will be decided by April 2010, in time for the local elections in October 2010.

Environment Waikato will be presenting its submission to the select committee next Thursday (23 July).