Clear­ing murky wa­ters in rivers plan

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - VAUGHAN PAYNE

A cou­ple of myths need cor­rec­tion over the pro­posed plan change for clean­ing up the Waikato and Waipa rivers, namely that the pro­posal seeks to ‘‘pro­tect’’ in­ten­sive farm­ing and that this idea is Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil’s fault.

The short re­sponse is that the pro­posal, if im­ple­mented, wouldn’t lock in ‘‘grand­par­ented’’ ni­tro­gen dis­charge rights as sug­gested and the plan change was writ­ten by a multi-sec­tor group, not the coun­cil.

If we are to get the fi­nal shape of the plan change right it’s im­por­tant that all par­ties have a clear-sighted view of what’s pro­posed and stick to the facts dur­ing the nec­es­sary com­mu­nity de­bate on the is­sues.

So, for the record, the fol­low­ing de­tailed in­for­ma­tion is im­por­tant to bear in mind.

Healthy Rivers/wai Ora: Pro­posed Waikato Re­gional Plan Change 1 was no­ti­fied for pub­lic sub­mis­sions by coun­cil in Oc­to­ber last year. While coun­cil no­ti­fied it, the pol­icy was de­vel­oped over two-and-a-half years us­ing a Col­lab­o­ra­tive Stake­holder Group (CSG). Ef­fec­tively coun­cil handed the pol­icy writ­ing pen to our com­mu­nity and the sec­tors and in­dus­tries most af­fected by the goal of im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity.

We took this ap­proach to cre­ate own­er­ship and fos­ter be­hav­iour change at a com­mu­nity, sec­tor and in­dus­try level. Those most af­fected need to own both the prob­lems and the so­lu­tions. It means we all take re­spon­si­bil­ity and we all own the so­lu­tions.

The re­sult­ing plan takes us on just the first decade of an 80-year jour­ney to re­store and pro­tect the health of our rivers. We are col­lec­tively re­quired to do so un­der the Gov­ern­ment’s na­tional pol­icy state­ment on fresh­wa­ter, and Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato, the Vi­sion and Strat­egy for the Waikato River in­tro­duced un­der Treaty set­tle­ment leg­is­la­tion. In short to do noth­ing is not an op­tion, other re­gions have al­ready im­ple­mented plan changes for wa­ter qual­ity and our plan change has bal­anced the en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and so­cial implications.

The plan seeks to ad­dress the four con­tam­i­nants caus­ing prob­lems for the rivers and lakes of the Waikato and Waipa¯ catch­ments. Ni­tro­gen is one of them. The oth­ers are sed­i­ment, bac­te­ria, and phos­pho­rus.

Ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties and man­u­fac­tur­ers have been work­ing on so­lu­tions to ad­dress th­ese con­tam­i­nants and oth­ers from point sources like fac­to­ries and sewage treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties for at least the last four decades. Th­ese are al­ready reg­u­lated by the ex­ist­ing Waikato Re­gional Plan. They need re­source con­sent, and must be treated to a high stan­dard. Ur­ban ratepay­ers across the re­gion are cur­rently spend­ing in ex­cess of $60 mil­lion dol­lars a year to achieve this.

There has also been much good work by ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and landown­ers over this time but the fact is there has still been ma­jor in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion within the catch­ments and, in the odd case, in­ap­pro­pri­ate land use. Over the last ten years we have had an area six times the size of Hamil­ton city con­verted from forestry to pas­ture and this now makes a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the con­tam­i­nants in our water­ways.

For this rea­son the plan fo­cuses on ru­ral land and not just dairy or dry­s­tock. It also ad­dresses the im­pacts of hor­ti­cul­ture and forestry on our water­ways.

The sug­ges­tion Healthy Rivers/wai Ora: Pro­posed Waikato Re­gional Plan Change 1 pro­tects the high­est ni­tro­gen dis­charg­ers’ or pro­tects in­ten­sive farm­ing long term is not cor­rect.

· Vaughan Payne is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil.


Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Vaughan Payne.

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