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Public input helps rivers project progress

Issued by Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai
The ground-breaking project to protect and restore the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers has been getting valuable public input.

A multi-sector Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) will later this year recommend a proposed change to the Waikato Regional Plan. This will set targets and limits for land-based activities that can affect river health.

Information gained during an intensive stakeholder and public engagement phase between March and May this year has been considered by the CSG.

Most people commenting supported the group’s preferred freshwater management unit (FMU) option, involving dividing up the Waikato and Waipa catchments for the purposes of monitoring progress towards meeting targets and limits. The CSG is recommending five FMUs. The recommendation will go to the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee involving the regional council and partner iwi.

Most respondents during the intensive engagement phase also supported the CSG’s draft list of water quality attributes that will be monitored to see whether people’s values and preferred uses for fresh water are being fulfilled. On clarity, most people wanted to be able to see further than their neck to toes or from their waist to toes if those parts of their body are under water. This feedback will help in finalising the list of attributes the CSG will recommend.

Later this year, the CSG will ask for feedback on a range of possible options for the proposed plan change. The group will use this feedback to finalise its recommendation to the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee.

Meanwhile, the CSG has finalised a set of criteria it plans to use to help it select the policies it will propose to the committee. They include enhancing people’s use of the river, aiming for cost-effective solutions, providing realistic timeframes for change, minimising social disruption, and supporting healthy plant and animal populations.

CSG chair Bill Wasley said: “Having agreed on these criteria now will help the CSG when they come to consider proposed plan change provisions later this year.”

Also, as part of the group’s work, it has been confirmed that four possible future scenarios for the Waikato and Waipa river catchments will be investigated by experts.

These scenarios include:

  • substantial improvement in water quality for swimming, taking food and healthy biodiversity
  • no further degradation and improving to at least minimum acceptable standard for all attributes
  • some general improvement in water quality for swimming, taking food and healthy biodiversity
  • no further degradation (in spite of projected extra contaminant loads from groundwater).

“The information the CSG receives on the implications of these scenarios will inform our thinking and help us decide on the options we’ll present to stakeholders and the public for feedback,” Mr Wasley said.

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