Stay en­gaged with Healthy Rivers plan

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place -

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.

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