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Published: 2017-03-14 16:00:00

Waikato Regional Council has received just over 1000 submissions on Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1.

Chief executive Vaughan Payne says the number of submissions received are well in excess of that for any other plan change process undertake by the council to date.

“The number of submissions we’ve received are reflective of the complex issues we face in managing water quality in the Waikato and Waipā rivers and the depth of feeling in our community about this issue.”

He said he was pleased the community had taken the opportunity to have their say on the proposed plan change, developed by the 24-strong Collaborative Stakeholder Group which was made up of community and sector appointed representatives.

“The closing of submissions last week was another big milestone for this vital project, developed by our community and affected sectors to restore water quality in our Waikato and Waipā rivers. This is also another big step on the journey to giving effect to Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato (The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato and Waipā rivers) adopted by Government as part of Treaty Settlement legislation.”  

Mr Payne said the council was now focussed on entering and summarising submissions and continuing to work with sectors and industry to try and resolve issues ahead of any hearings process which will happen later this year or in early 2018.

Submissions closed at 5pm on March 8 and submission summaries are expected to be complete and available by the end of June. The council will then be calling for further submissions asking submitters to indicate whether people support or are in opposition to the summarised submissions.

Independent commissioners will be appointed to hear submissions and advertising for registrations of interest for those roles will happen within the next month.

The council is also still working through a consultation process with Hauraki iwi authorities. An agreed consultation plan is likely to see recommendations relating to the partially withdrawn area of Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora made by June 2017.

Once recommendations are made on the partially withdrawn area, the council will re-notify that portion of the plan, along with highlighting any changes. Council will also provide landowners in the area with information so they can also submit on the withdrawn area of the plan.

The council intends to merge the two processes at the earliest possible opportunity, so that there is only one hearings and decisions process.