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Published: 2010-08-11 00:00:00

A proposed policy framework that sets the direction for managing the Waikato region’s natural and physical resources is a step closer to public release.

The policy and strategy committee today recommended the adoption of the proposed Waikato Regional Policy Statement (RPS), a far-reaching planning tool that enables the use of natural resources, such as water and land, and allows for the development of roads, infrastructure and buildings in ways that maintain a healthy environment.

Under the Resource Management Act (RMA), the RPS is required to identify the significant resource management issues for the Waikato region and set out how the regional community will manage resources such as air, biodiversity, coastal environments, freshwater, geothermal resources, landscapes, land and soils in ways that provide for the present without compromising the ability of future generations to provide for their own needs.

The key resource management issues are the declining state of the region’s natural resources, adaptation to a changing climate, encouraging energy conservation and efficiencies, the way we use and develop land, protection of the Waikato River and the relationship of tangata whenua with the environment.

"The contents of this document are vitally important to our quality of life in the Waikato region and that’s why we have involved many people over the lengthy period of drafting the RPS," said policy and strategy group manager Vaughan Payne.

As the RPS directly influences what councils will need to do to protect and enhance our environment and guides the processing of resource consents, extensive consultation and collaboration with councils, industry and iwi has been a hallmark of the development of the proposed RPS, he said.

The committee instructed council staff to continue working closely with local councils and stakeholders on any yet-to-be resolved issues with the proposed RPS.

The policy framework integrates regional and local council functions by guiding regional and district plans. These plans contain the rules that control the use of natural resources.

A key change between the current RPS and the new document is the move to co-governance of resource management between the regional council and iwi. The council’s iwi partners, Tuwharetoa, Maniapoto, Raukawa, Waikato-Tainui, Hauraki and Te Arawa, have participated in the drafting of the RPS over the past 18 months and their representatives attended today’s meeting.

Of particular note is the inclusion in the proposed RPS of the Vision and Strategy/Te Ture Whaimana for the protection of the Waikato River, established as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui. The document has unique legislative status and has been deemed into the proposed RPS. It requires all other parts of the proposed RPS to be consistent with it and must also be given effect to by plans developed and administered by all councils along the river.

A comprehensive evaluation has assessed the appropriateness, efficiency and effectiveness of the objectives and policies in the proposed RPS.

The regional policy statement will be put to the full council for adoption on 26 August. Formal notification of the proposed RPS will be delayed until 3 November to take into account regional boundary changes that come into effect on 1 November as part of the creation of the new Auckland Council.

Submissions on the proposed RPS will close 28 February 2011.