From Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora
A major milestone has been reached on the journey to restore and protect the Waikato and Waipa rivers with the development of a broad policy mix framework for improving the health and well-being of the waterways over the next 80 years.
The Restoring and protecting our water/Te whakapaipai me te tiaki i ō tātou wai report was yesterday formally received by the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee, made up of Waikato-Tainui, Maniapoto, Raukawa, Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa and Waikato Regional Council representatives.
The report was formulated by the multi-sector Collaborative Stakeholder Group used to work on a Waikato regional plan change under the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project. The legally binding Te Ture Whaimana (Vision and Strategy) for the catchment requires water bodies to be fishable and swimmable along their entire length over time and the project was established to look at measures for achieving this goal. Also, the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 requires regional councils to manage water quality by setting objectives, limits and targets for all water bodies.
The CSG will now use the policy mix framework to develop a recommended plan change for the consideration of the committee and the full regional council in June. Assuming the recommendation is endorsed, public consultation on a plan change will commence soon after, enabling the wider public to have its say (the wider public has already been involved in the development of the policy mix through sector meetings and community workshops, online surveys and other mechanisms).
“We have reached a major milestone on the journey to protect and restore our precious waterways,” said committee co-chair Alan Livingston (pictured), a regional councillor.
“The policy mix provides a sound basis for developing the final suite of tools that will be recommended to assist in achieving the Vision and Strategy in a phased way over the next 80 years. I would like to thank the CSG and our iwi partners for the hard work they have put in to get to this point.”
Co-chair Kataraina Hodge (pictured), from Raukawa, said: “Restoration and protection of the awa is of paramount importance to river iwi and it is great to be putting in place the roadmap that will ensure future generations will be able to swim and gather food like our tūpuna did in the past. We have appreciated the way stakeholders have come together to develop solutions to the issues we need to address to assist in achieving the outcomes sought by Te Ture Whaimana.”
The CSG’s independent chair Bill Wasley thanked the group’s members for their extensive work over the past few years developing the policy mix. “Our challenge now will be to take this framework and flesh out the detail of the proposed plan change we will finally recommend to the committee in June. This will be a significant task given the various environmental, economic, social and cultural considerations we need to take account of, and the ongoing feedback and input.”
Key features of the policy mix framework include a range of measures to reduce nutrients, sediment and bacteria from entering waterways, while collecting the necessary information to support further measures in future. The framework is particularly focused on the impacts of higher intensity farming on water quality. The CSG has agreed on limiting major land use change in the rivers’ catchments and restricting stock access to water.
Agreed measures also include the need for many farms above a specified low intensity to have a resource consent and a property management plan or to have a plan and be part of an industry land management scheme. Plans would cover reducing the loss of contaminants to water. Landholder compliance with consents would be audited. Exactly how the council would support farmers to make these changes is still being worked on by the CSG but it’s expected the property management plan approach will require more one-on-one interaction with landholders.
On the issue of potential limits on nitrogen discharges from individual properties, the CSG agrees that at this stage the focus should be on gathering more information on such discharges so as to provide a sound basis for managing them on an individual property basis in the next plan change.
Mr Wasley said a key area the CSG was still looking at was the exact river health outcomes that should be expected from the various measures after 10 to 20 years. “We want to be clear on the short-term goals we want to achieve as we work towards the long-term realisation of the Vision and Strategy.”
Other key details being looked at include priority areas for implementing property management plans, and a timeline and plan for implementing any new requirements.
“The intent is to work closely with representatives from farming and other sectors on where and how we make progress on measures outlined in the final plan change,” said Mr Wasley.