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Published: 2016-04-28 00:00:00

Six years after it was first notified for public consultation, the Proposed Waikato Regional Policy Statement (RPS) has been finally signed off to become fully operative.

The move came in a unanimous vote by councilors at today’s Waikato Regional Council meeting.

“This is an extremely important milestone as it means that from 20 May the full provisions of the RPS will be operative,” said chairperson Paula Southgate.

“I love the Waikato region: its beautiful natural environment, its vibrant city and towns, and the excellent services and opportunities. Looking after the health of our environment is especially important and, like me, the people of the Waikato have an amazing passion for it.

“The RPS provides certainty with a clear policy stance on how we manage our natural resources across the region in an integrated way.”

The document, a long term planning tool, sets the overall direction for the integrated management and protection of the region’s natural and physical resources. In line with the council’s priorities, it promotes a collaborative and holistic approach to resource management.

“Importantly, the RPS will help the regional, city and district councils decide what needs to be done to keep and enhance the environmental conditions that drive our economy and provide us with the quality of life our region currently enjoys,” said Cr Southgate. 

The ability for the RPS to become fully operative follows the resolution of 37 appeals to the Environment Court against the provisions of a “decisions” version released in 2012.

“All these appeals have subsequently been resolved through the appeal process, either by consent order or through hearings of the court,” a report to the council meeting said.

Cr Southgate said the length of the appeals process highlighted both the strength of the democratic process and the country’s independent legal system, and the long time it can take councils to change rules and policies.

“At the end of the day we have a sound and solid basis for moving forward to develop the economic strength and well-being of our region, at the same time as protecting and enhancing the environment.

“A healthy environment is critical to our region’s economy and ensuring everyone benefits from the quality of life most of us enjoy now.

“We all have a part to play, because it’s only by working together that we can ensure our region’s natural resources are protected for a better and brighter future.”