River plans should float on re­al­ism

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - ANDREWMCGIVEN

With con­cerns about how the Healthy Rivers Plan Change will af­fect ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in the Waikato and Waipa River catch­ments, it is timely to high­light a plan change will also be de­vel­oped in fu­ture for the Wai­hou and Pi­ako River catch­ments.

This will be a con­cern for all ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in the catch­ments, as the mod­el­ling shows fi­nan­cial and so­cial costs from the Healthy Rivers plan change, while yet to be fi­nalised, ap­pear to be neg­a­tive.

There could be loss of busi­nesses and jobs and ad­di­tional costs loaded onto al­ready stressed ratepay­ers.

While we all want im­proved river wa­ter qual­ity, I ques­tion whether it is worth all th­ese costs, so­cial and oth­er­wise, to im­prove what is al­ready good wa­ter qual­ity, with data show­ing an im­prov­ing trend in the last cou­ple of decades.

Sea Change has been ex­am­in­ing ways to im­prove the Hau­raki Gulf’s en­vi­ron­men­tal health.

Their re­search has shown sed­i­ment is the num­ber one con­tam­i­nant, hardly sur­pris­ing given the Kaimai Ranges com­prise a large part of the catch­ment.

Peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions that all rivers should look crys­tal clear and sky blue are un­re­al­is­tic; when a river sys­tem runs through bush and peat, it will look dis­coloured when it en­ters the ocean.

The Waikato and Waipa com­mu­ni­ties want their rivers to be swimmable. For the Wai­hou and Pi­ako catch­ments, a process will be needed to iden­tify com­mu­nity val­ues for our rivers, as well as recog­nis­ing their im­pact on the Hau­raki Gulf.

What has been detri­men­tal to the gulf’s health has been the dec­i­ma­tion of na­tive mus­sel beds around the Firth of Thames that used to nat­u­rally fil­ter sed­i­ment and nu­tri­ents be­fore they en­tered the ocean.

It is a com­bi­na­tion of th­ese val­ues and good sci­ence that needs to be the ba­sis of de­vel­op­ing pol­icy and rules for the Wai­hou and Pi­ako catch­ments, whether by a Col­lab­o­ra­tive Stake­holder Group (CSG) or any other process.

One of my great­est fears is that the process will be dom­i­nated by Hau­raki Gulf out­comes and there­fore dom­i­nated by the Auck­land Coun­cil.

That coun­cil has an ur­ban­cen­tric view of the gulf that may be at odds with farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties on the Hau­raki Plains and their en­vi­ron­ment.

Moves on any Wai­hou and Pi­ako plan change may be some years off yet but we need to keep a watch on this im­por­tant topic.

An­drew McGiven Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Waikato vice-pres­i­dent.

An­drew McGiven, keep­ing an eye on Wai­hou and Pi­ako river plans.

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