The Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG), in working on ways to protect and restore the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers, is taking into account the new National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management 2014 which came into effect in August.
Under the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project, the multi-stakeholder CSG is charged with developing a regional plan change related to the Waikato and Waipa rivers for consideration by the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee. The Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee will then recommend the plan change to the Waikato Regional Council.
The amended NPS provides greater direction on how regions are to go about setting objectives, policies and rules to maintain or improve overall water quality.
The NPS directs regional councils to establish freshwater management units and then identify the values communities have for water in these areas. Values could be, for example, irrigation, mahinga kai (food gathering) or swimming. The Crown-iwi Vision and Strategy for the rivers, which must be given effect to, includes having them safe for food gathering and swimming.
Since March this year group members have been hearing about and understanding the values of a range of different people, groups and perspectives. From this they have developed a working list of values.
This list will be used at the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora stakeholder forum this month to involve a wider group of stakeholders in identifying values for different parts of the rivers and catchments.
“Once stakeholders and communities have chosen values for freshwater management units, the new NPS directs councils to decide the water quality objective for each value chosen by the community,” said CSG chair Bill Wasley.
“The economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts to that community must be taken into account. “
The CSG will use the values to decide on the overall objectives of the proposed plan change it is developing.
A series of recent studies, which has involved Waikato Regional Council and others, will provide information to the CSG about the impacts of a range of potential scenarios for the rivers.
Undertaken as part of the Waikato Economic Impact Joint Venture Studies project, the studies provide a picture of the effects of a range of limits and targets for the catchments.
“The tools provided by the studies will help the CSG understand the potential environmental, economic, social and cultural costs and benefits of different options,” said Mr Wasley.
Meanwhile, the CSG has been given a Waikato-Tainui perspective on the Waikato and Waipa river catchments at its latest workshop.
Waikato Raupatu River Trust Environmental Manager Tim Manukau told the CSG that “land and natural resources like the river are part of our identity”.
The Waikato-Tainui Environmental Plan Tai Tumu, Tai Pari, Tai Ao, launched last year, sets environmental enhancement as a key priority.
“We want to give a net benefit back to the environment, so the environment is actually enhanced,” Mr Manukau said.
“We want a healthy river for a healthy future, not just for Tainui. We want the river to be made safe for everybody.”