Stay engaged with Healthy Rivers plan
A great thing about being regional council chairman is getting to mix with some amazing people doing great work for the environment.
Recently at Waikato’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards I announced the Waikato Regional Council Water Protection Award for Cambridge couple Charlie and Helen Lea, who also picked up the supreme award. A truly impressive amount of work had gone into protecting the environment on their 190ha (effective) property. The stories of the Leas and other farmers like them, publicly recognised or not, are a real credit to the region. Their often sophisticated responses to the water quality protection challenges we collectively face show it’s possible to maintain and even enhance economic returns by making changes. We can’t make substantial progress on cleaning up water quality in our region without their efforts.
At the other end of the scale are our very young people learning about and rising to those challenges in their own way as they look to craft their own stories.
Regional councillors have taken great pleasure recently in attending several Enviroschools who have celebrated and reflected on their alignment with the top Green-Gold description under the regional council-supported programme, involving more than 175 Waikato schools and kindergartens.
To demonstrate that alignment, Enviroschools must show evidence of how environmental sustainability is integrated into everything they do, with students having a strong connection to their environment and community, and being empowered to make change.
The seeds Enviroschools is planting in the minds and actions of our young people will continue to bear fruit in the years ahead as they step up to become tomorrow’s environmental leaders (and as they put pressure on their elders to be more environmentally involved).
From the regional council’s big picture perspective, it’s also been great to see the level of community involvement in the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 process aimed at better protecting the Waikato and Waipa rivers.
We’ve received just over 1000 submissions, well in excess of any other plan change process to date and a strong sign of how much the community cares about the types of issues we’re trying to address.
For now the council is focussed on entering and summarising submissions, and continuing to work with sectors and industry to try and resolve issues ahead of any hearings process which will happen later this year or in early 2018. Submission summaries are expected to be complete and available by mid-year. The council will then be calling for further submissions asking submitters to indicate whether people support or are in opposition to the summarised submissions. I urge all in our communities – from farmers and other rural folk through to urban dwellers and our young people everywhere – to stay engaged with our collective water quality protection effort. Central Government has signalled clearly the need to make water quality improvements so we need to work closely together to ensure we take the best path forward in our region.
-Alan Livingston is chair of Waikato Regional Council. The views expressed are his own.
Healthy Rivers looks at ways to protect the Waikato and Waipa rivers.