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Published: 2017-03-07 14:00:00

The process of wading through scores of submissions on the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Proposed Plan Change 1 begins in earnest after tomorrow following confirmation of the 5pm Wednesday deadline for getting submissions in.

In Auckland today the High Court declined a Horticulture New Zealand application to stop the plan change process immediately until the hearing of a judicial review application later in the year.

Horticulture NZ and five other groups applied before Christmas for a judicial review of the process as they want the plan change paused until an area of north Waikato is re-integrated into the process following consultation with Hauraki iwi. That application is due to be heard in June.

Meanwhile, the full council confirmed yesterday a recommendation not to extend the deadline, despite requests for an extension, and approved a submission prepared by staff on the proposed plan change.

“These developments mean tomorrow’s deadline is the one we will be sticking to,” said science and strategy director Tracey May.

To ensure correct governance process, the council had previously sent the request for an extension to the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee, made up of councillors and iwi representatives. Last Friday the committee recommended the council stick with 8 March for a range of reasons. A majority of councillors then confirmed that recommendation yesterday.

The proposed plan change was prepared by a multi-party Collaborative Stakeholder Group. The submission by council staff takes into consideration how the plan can practically be implemented and enforced, how the plan affects the council as a land owner and key infrastructure provider, and how the proposed plan delivers on the regional council’s legal responsibilities for developing resource management policy for freshwater management.

It supports the overall intent and objectives of the proposed plan while making practical suggestions for improvements in how Healthy Rivers Wai Ora can be implemented for affected landowners, while ensuring the protection and restoration of the Waikato and Waipā rivers into the future.

Key submission areas include the approach to nitrogen management, ownership of nitrogen reference points, including monitoring and enforceability, the implications of the current proposal on commercial vegetable production and addressing some inconsistencies in the proposed plan rules.