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Greater community role in rivers protection group

The general community is being given a greater say in a high calibre Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) which will help drive solutions to issues affecting the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers.

To make it even more inclusive, the group has been expanded to 25, from the 20-strong group planned at a recent stakeholder workshop, by adding four extra community seats and one for rural professionals, the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee said.

The committee has equal representation from Waikato Regional Council and river iwi and last night had the council’s mandate to decide the CSG’s composition.

“The extra general seats in particular will make the group more inclusive and help us reach out to our Waikato communities better,” said regional councillor Alan Livingston and Te Arawa River Iwi Trust representative Roger Pikia, the co-chairs of the committee.

 “We believe, after very careful consideration, that this expanded membership will help the CSG be even more effective and serve the long-term interests of the project best,” Mr Livingston and Mr Pikia said.

 “We had a total of 65 very strong applications for positions on the Collaborative Stakeholder Group. The quality of the people selected is very high and we are very grateful to those willing to devote their time and energy towards the vitally important kaupapa of protecting our rivers.”

 The CSG - formed as part of the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project – represents a new way of tackling major water quality issues in the region.

Under the project, the CSG will be involved in making recommendations to Waikato Regional Council and river iwi partners on a regional plan change for the Waikato and Waipa rivers. The plan change will involve limits and targets for land-based activities so as to protect the health of the two rivers.

Sector groups nominated their own representatives for 13 seats while the project steering group Te Rōpū Hautū – involving iwi, the council and the Waikato River Authority – applied a rigorous set of criteria in making its final recommendations for the remainder.

Selection criteria included ensuring a balanced and representative group of people with the right skills, networks, influence and mandate.

“In the end, we believe we have selected a CSG with the knowledge, skills and community networks to help make recommendations taking into account a wide range of perspectives,” said Mr Livingston and Mr Pikia.

“CSG members come from a range of backgrounds including local government, farming, forestry and environmental representatives, Maori interests and general community representatives.

“We are confident the group will chart a clear way forward for protecting our precious Waikato and Waipa rivers, which are taonga for all sections of our community and underpin our economy, environment and community wellbeing.”

The CSG’s first meeting is due in February next year. The group will receive information from a Technical Alliance of experts and others to help it finalise recommendations on the proposed plan change for the Waikato and Waipa rivers. That proposed plan change is due to be publicly notified for submissions in November 2015.

The names of those appointed to the CSG will be available later this week once nominees have been advised personally of the outcome of the selection process.

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