The initial work of a group tasked with helping find solutions to key water quality issues in Waikato has been very positive, says the group’s interim chair Bill Wasley.
The 25-strong Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) set up under the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project held its first workshop over two days in Hamilton late last month. The next workshop is scheduled for next month.
“There was a really good co-operative spirit at our first workshop which augurs well for the future of the project,” said Mr Wasley, a highly experienced resource management practitioner and independent chair from Tauranga.
“We have begun developing processes for how we will collectively move forward on identifying solutions to water quality issues in the Waikato and Waipa rivers.
“This is an exciting new collaborative project for the Waikato and, while it will be hard work, people are looking forward to addressing the challenges we face together.
“It’s expected to be 18 months before we’re in a position to make recommendations to Waikato Regional Council and iwi on a regional plan change to help improve water quality.”
The CSG is a core component of the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora project, involving Waikato Regional Council, river iwi partners and the Waikato River Authority. The CSG is made up of representatives from a wide range of interests, including farming and industry, Māori, local government, environmental and the general community.
The role of the CSG will be to, by November next year, recommend changes to the regional plan to better protect the health of the rivers. This plan change will set targets and limits for sediment, bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus entering water directly or via land (including to groundwater) to help achieve the Vision and Strategy for the rivers and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. Contaminants from both point sources (such as factories) and non-point discharges (such as farmland) will be considered by the CSG.
The group will receive information from a Technical Alliance of experts and others to help it finalise recommendations on the proposed plan change, which is due to be publicly notified for submissions in November 2015.