Split vote over Waikato River plan
A groundbreaking plan change proposal aimed at restoring and protecting the Waikato and Waipa rivers has been approved by Waikato Regional Council for public notification.
Councillors were split 7-7 on a motion to approve and the measure was passed on the casting vote of the chairperson Paula Southgate.
It means the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project’s proposed plan change is now due to be formally publicly notified next month.
Public notification will begin a process whereby the wider community has a formal chance to submit on the proposed plan change, while new land use change measures take immediate effect on notification.
‘‘[The] vote marks a major step on the journey to restoring and protecting the Waikato and Waipa rivers,’’ said Cr Alan Livingston, co-chair of the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora committee.
‘‘The next step following formal public notification is to hear what the wider community has to say on the proposed plan change.
‘‘We strongly encourage the public to have their say before this plan change is finalised.‘‘
The proposed plan change was prepared by a multi-sector Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) involving iwi, the council and stakeholders, including the farming sector.
The plan change is designed to take the rivers on the first stage of an 80-year journey towards being safe for swimming and food gathering along their entire length.
The plan change focuses on the contaminants nitrogen, phosphorous, pathogens and sediment getting into the rivers.
These can harm the health of water bodies or present risks to people and stock, and the aim is to reduce their presence to acceptable levels.
Due to the extent of change required, the CSG has recommended an 80-year staged approach to achieving the water quality required by the Vision and Strategy for the rivers.
The first stage covered by the proposed plan change involves actions over a decade that will ultimately result in 10 per cent of the change towards achieving Te Ture Whaimana.
Analysis indicates the measures proposed by the CSG will make major improvements in bacteria levels and some improvement in phosphorus and sediment levels in the first 10 years.
The Healthy Rivers Wai Ora notification has been agreed on by Waikato Regional Councillors.