River plan will de­liver on chal­lenges

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - VAUGHAN PAYNE

That seems to be the un­der­ly­ing swirl in some re­cent com­men­tary on the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Pro­posed Plan Change 1 for ad­dress­ing the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers.

How­ever, I be­lieve the plan – de­vel­oped by a multi-sec­tor Col­lab­o­ra­tive Stake­holder Group (CSG) - is a ro­bust at­tempt to meet the legally man­dated and com­plex chal­lenge of mak­ing the rivers safe for swim­ming and food gath­er­ing along their en­tire lengths, in­clud­ing their trib­u­taries.

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil is ex­tremely grate­ful to the CSG for tak­ing on this enor­mous chal­lenge.

CSG rep­re­sen­ta­tives were se­lected by their sec­tors, such as dairy, sheep and beef and in­dus­try. Not all agreed to ev­ery­thing in the plan no­ti­fied for pub­lic sub­mis­sions.

Fair enough. As CEO of Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil, I fully ex­pect our or­gan­i­sa­tion to make a sig­nif­i­cant sub­mis­sion on as­pects of the CSG’s plan. I also ex­pect ro­bust de­bate from oth­ers over its pro­pos­als and urge peo­ple to have their say through the sub­mis­sions process.

But let’s not sug­gest there are no real is­sues to ad­dress.

The Gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment for Fresh­wa­ter Man­age­ment (NPS) and the legally bind­ing Crown-iwi Vi­sion and Strat­egy for the rivers both out­line stan­dards to be met over time.

The lat­ter calls for the rivers to be in good health and safe for swim­ming and food gath­er­ing along their en­tire lengths, in­clud­ing their trib­u­taries. It’s be­ing pro­posed by the CSG that this hap­pens over the next 80 years.

There’s ab­so­lutely no doubt that sig­nif­i­cant lengths of both rivers and their trib­u­taries fail to meet the wa­ter qual­ity stan­dards re­quired. For ex­am­ple, of the 61 sites where it is mea­sured, 49 fail the E.coli test for swimma­bil­ity. Fail­ure rates are sim­i­lar for var­i­ous mea­sures re­lated to ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus and wa­ter clar­ity.

So it’s clear from the science that, if we are to com­ply with guide­lines over time, changes to the way we man­age our land will need to be made.

Some peo­ple may ques­tion whether the guide­lines are ap­pro­pri­ate tar­gets. That’s their pre­rog­a­tive. But these are the guide­lines we need to aim for.

The CSG’s pro­posed so­lu­tion is now out there. The sub­mis­sions process gives us all the op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss whether the CSG has got it right and whether re­fine­ments are needed.

The re­gional coun­cil nat­u­rally un­der­stands the angst some feel over the fi­nan­cial con­se­quences of im­ple­ment­ing the pro­posed new land use rules. We un­doubt­edly face ex­tra costs our­selves.

So I urge all in the wider re­gional com­mu­nity to work hard to­gether to get the fi­nal shape of the plan change as right as we can. That way we’ll pro­tect both our en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic health and, es­pe­cially, the health of our spe­cial rivers.

Above: Vaughan Payne. Left: An aerial view of the Waikato River.

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