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Published: 2013-03-15 00:00:00

The process for appointing a group of experts to assist with the development of policy aimed at helping restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato and Waipa rivers has been signed off by Waikato Regional Council.

Dubbed the “Technical Alliance”, the multi-disciplinary group will provide technical advice to the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change project.

The project – which marks a step change in the council’s approach to policy formulation - involves the council and its Waikato and Waipa river iwi partners working with stakeholders to develop changes to the regional plan aimed at restoring and protecting the health of the two rivers.

One of the aims of the fresh way of doing things is to get as much early agreement as possible on new policy to narrow the points of difference at Environment Court.

In approving terms of reference for forming the Technical Alliance, the council said the process to appoint the expert group would be “inclusive and transparent”.

“We will ensure that the technical experts appointed will have credibility and integrity and that there will be a clear process for appointing them that takes into account stakeholder views,” said the council’s policy group manager Vaughan Payne.

The Technical Alliance, due to start operating this year, will include experts from 10 specialty areas, including economics, social outcomes and mātauranga (knowledge) Māori.

Mr Payne said the various viewpoints of experts with different specialities would be useful in encouraging constructive debate about the way forward.

“We need good debate to work out exactly what are the issues we need to address and, more importantly, what are the solutions we need to apply.”

Cr Norm Barker, who chairs the council’s land and water quality subcommittee, said there would no doubt be times when the council and stakeholders would face “stormy weather” as they worked through the plan change.

“However, I’m confident the process for appointing the Technical Alliance will ensure we have the right group of people to bring us out the other side of any debate with the right answers for the way ahead.”

A list of potential members for the Technical Alliance is due to be circulated to key stakeholders for their feedback shortly

A proposed plan change for the two rivers is currently due to publicly notified in 2015.