Plan change past point of intervention
Environment Minister Nick Smith is unwilling to intervene in the legislative process involving Waikato Regional Council’s Healthy Rivers Plan change.
Smith was asked whether he would appoint a board of inquiry to intervene in the plan change by ACT Leader David Seymour during parliamentary question time on November 8.
Smith was able to intervene by invoking section 142 of the Resource Management Act. But with notification of the plan change now publicly available for submissions, it had passed the point where he could intervene, Smith said.
‘‘It would be unusual for the Government to step in and, effectively, take over a regional council’s most important function of water quality. We did choose to do so in Canterbury; I am reluctant to do so in the Waikato.’’
Seymour said he had been contacted by landowners concerned about the effects the plan change would have on their profitability.
‘‘We hope the hearing committee will properly listen to submitters bearing in mind that the Minister is closely watching.’’
The high cost for some farmers as outlined in the Federated Farmers-commissioned Farm Plan Project saw New Zealand First attempt to secure a parliamentary debate.
The request was refused by House speaker David Carter because the report did not fall into the realms of ministerial responsibility.
That project had 13 mostly drystock farms and 11 Fonterra farms go through the process of developing farm environment plans (FEPs) as required under the plan change. The FEPs are designed to identify current contaminant losses and where those contaminants can leave properties.
They also detail what action landowners will take to reduce those losses in a certain timeframe.
One of the farms studied in the project could have to pay $785,687, of which $479,138 was fencing costs to meet its environmental obligations under Healthy Rivers.
Other farms used as case studies had costs ranging from $0-$500,000, with the bulk of the costs tied up in hill country fencing and water reticulation.
A major project funded by the Waikato River Authority is the Mangaotama Wetland restoration near Ngahinapouri in the Waipa catchment. Inset: Nick Smith says he does not want to intervene in the Healthy Rivers Plan Change.