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Published: 2012-08-15 00:00:00

A draft regional plan change process to help protect and restore the Waikato and Waipa rivers has today been signed off by Waikato Regional Council.

The council and its Waikato and Waipa River iwi partners will soon begin meetings with key stakeholders to discuss the project, dubbed ‘Healthy Rivers – Plan for Change’. The project partners will also seek feedback on the process planned for developing the plan change.

The recommendation to commence the plan change process was adopted by the council’s policy and strategy committee, with eight councillors voting for and two against. This decision was endorsed at a special council meeting, with a vote of 8-2.

Before its adoption, Cr Stu Kneebone requested an amendment to the recommendation to emphasise that the project partners will collaborate with all interested and potentially affected stakeholders, both urban and rural, to fully understand all sides of the issue to be addressed.

He stressed that the solutions must be sensible and practical, and the policies that are put in place must help to sustain the environment and the economy.

The plan change will be publicly notified for submissions in November 2015.

The Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011 means that council must begin a regional plan change as soon as possible. It is also prudent to take action now because of timeframes in the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management 2011 requires regional councils to set freshwater objectives and limits and manage discharges as soon as possible, and ideally to make changes necessary to implement the NPS by 31 December 2014.

As this timeframe is not achievable, the council is permitted to develop a programme setting out stages and timeframes for full implementation by 2030. This programme will be adopted by November 2012 and publically notified.

The Waikato River Authority plays an important role in this project and will start a review of the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River in 2016, and the council would like to be ahead of any directives they give on targets and methods. (The Waikato River Authority has the power to recommend that the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River be amended to include targets and methods.)

More information on the project is available at