Environment Waikato says it endorses a Land and Water Forum recommendation for a national framework in which regional councils and others would manage local water issues.
"We like the idea of a clear national policy for land and water to serve as a foundation for regional government and others when it comes to managing water quality and allocation issues," EW chairman Peter Buckley said today following the report’s release at Parliament.
Mr Buckley said EW supported moves to set national objectives for the state of waterbodies and overall timeframes to achieve water quality targets.
He said EW was well placed to continue managing water quality issues in an integrated way, as the report recommends.
"What we do on land affects water so one important recommendation is that regional councils continue to control land use and its effects on water quality and quantity," Mr Buckley said.
"This ‘whole of catchment’ approach to managing related land and water issues allows us to take into account both the environmental aspects of different waterbodies and also the values communities place on them," Mr Buckley said.
"It ensures that democratically elected bodies have ultimate control of how water is managed locally. Water quality is a key concern for all ratepayers in the Waikato community and those who pay should have a say in how it is managed."
Mr Buckley said he was open to the idea of Government appointees assisting regional councils on water quality issues where this was appropriate.
"We already use external commissioners for some resource consent applications and policies for water management. While we have the capability in-house to manage water issues, it is possible that Government appointees could play a valuable advisory role within council structures."
Mr Buckley said EW was a leader in managing water quality and had already been proactive on the sorts of issues discussed in the report. This included:
· The proposed Variation 6 policy for allocating water to provide for key priorities including domestic, industrial and agricultural uses, while ensuring enough waterway flows to protect freshwater ecosystems.
· The significant Variation 5 policy for managing Lake Taupo’s water quality
· Looking at new objectives for water quality through the current review of the Regional Policy Statement and integrating these into the development of a land and water quality strategy
· Working in partnership with iwi on resource management issues through the development of the draft Regional Policy Statement, particularly as they relate to the Waikato River.
"EW will also be closely involved with iwi in the implementation of co-management arrangements for the Waikato and Waipa rivers," said Mr Buckley.
The council felt that, on an ongoing basis, water quality issues – and the development of policies and arrangements to manage them – would be one of EW’s biggest and most important challenges.
"The Land and Water Forum report is very timely as it helps frame the discussion we’re having in the Waikato about strategic water management," Mr Buckley said.
"EW is committed to working closely with all interested parties – including iwi, farmers, central and local Government, industry and the general public – to find a clear path forward on water management.
"Water is essential for supporting recreation and environmental values, and is key to our economic wellbeing as it supports activities such as agriculture and tourism which are so important to the Waikato."