Developing a new Regional Plan - Q & A
What is the purpose of a regional plan?
Regional Plans contain the rules and policies that govern the use of natural resources and manage the effects of that use. Examples of this include managing what is discharged to land or water, what amount of water can be taken and used from rivers, streams and groundwater, and what contaminants can be allowed to enter the atmosphere.
The Regional Coastal Plan is the only mandatory Regional Plan; other Regional Plans are prepared at the discretion of the Wellington Regional Council. The Wellington Regional Council currently has four other Regional Plans – Regional Plan for Discharges to Land, Regional Air Quality Management Plan, Regional Soil Plan and Regional Freshwater Plan.
Why are you doing this now? Aren’t the current plans good enough?
Under the Resource Management Act 1991, reviews of plans must commence 10 years after they have become operative. The first of the current suite of regional plans was formally adopted by the Wellington Regional Council in December 1999, so we started our review in 2009.
What are you doing differently this time?
The Wellington Regional Council has a stated commitment to managing catchments in an integrated way, so we have developed one integrated plan, instead of the set of five that we currently have. This recognises the inter-relationships between different activities, whether they are on land or water.
The Natural Resources Plan for the Wellington Region (referred to as the proposed Plan) has been developed “with” the community rather than “for” the community so the content of the proposed Plan is a result of intensive engagement and discussion with many different parts of the regional community.
The proposed Plan has also been developed in partnership with the mana whenua iwi of the region. The proposed Plan identifies mana whenua values for water at a regional and catchment scale and also schedules places of importance to mana whenua.
The proposed Plan includes five chapters for our five largest catchments or whaitua; Ruamahanga, Wellington Harbour and Hutt Valley, Te Awarua-o-Porirua, Kapiti, and Wairarapa Coast. These chapters currently have water quantity limits for water takes which will be reviewed by whaitua committees. The water quality limits for discharges to land and water are yet to be developed. The whaitua committee members who are drawn from the local community will review these chapters.
How long will it be before the Natural Resources Plan for the Wellington Region is in place?
Submissions on the proposed Plan closed on 25 September 2015. There will be an opportunity to make further submissions from 26 February 2016. We expect to be working through these submissions into 2016 and to start hearings in mid-2016.
See our Regional Plan Timeline
What’s happening now and how can people participate?
The submission period closed on 25 September 2015. GWRC have prepared a summary of submissions and will let submitters know when and where they can view this summary. The proposed Plan is available at http://www.gw.govt.nz/regional-plan-review/.
What’s already happened?
In 2010 the Regional Council held 15 community workshops, meetings with mana whenua iwi and local councils and an online survey to get people’s views on the state of natural resources and on the problems and opportunities with how natural resources are currently managed. The results of those workshops are published in our public engagement report.
Throughout 2011 we developed a range of issues and goals that incorporated people’s views from the previous year’s workshops, online survey, mana whenua iwi and council meetings as well as information from our science and monitoring and stocktakes of our existing policies.
In November 2011 we held a number of community drop-in sessions to show people what we had been working on.
Throughout 2012 we worked with stakeholders to develop ideas for the new regional plan and held a series of public presentations around the region on progress with developing the new regional plan and our ideas for managing natural resources. We made short videos on these ideas and sought feedback. The reports on these engagement activities can be found on our website: http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Reviewofpublicconsultation2013.pdf.
In July 2013 the Working Document for Discussion (WDFD) was our first cut at provisions for the new regional plan. The WDFD enabled further discussions to happen with stakeholders and other members of the community.
In September 2014 we released a draft Natural Resources Plan and asked for feedback which has further influenced the development of the proposed Plan.
On 31 July 2015 the Proposed Natural Resources Plan for the Wellington Region was publically notified. The formal submission period closed on 25 September 2015.
What is the status of the current Regional Plans that the Regional Council has in place?
All existing Regional Plans and the rules contained within them will remain in place and operative until the new regional plan is completed and endorsed by the Wellington Regional Council. However the rules in the proposed Plan do have legal effect from the date of notification. This means that both the operative plans and the proposed Plan needs to be considered when using or making decisions on natural resources.
The plan identifies a number of significant sites. What are these and what do they mean?
Sites of significance have been identified for the following types of values:
• historic heritage
• mana whenua
• indigenous biodiversity - including fish, birds, ecosystems, and habitats
• drinking water supply
The proposed Plan only schedules significant sites in the coastal marine area, the beds lakes and rivers, and wetlands; places on land are managed by district plans. Most activities in these areas already require resource consent, In significant sites the rules are slightly different. This does not affect any existing resource consents. The changes will also not give public access to the site.
What is Te Upoko Taiao – Natural Resource Management Committee?
The Wellington Regional Council established Te Upoko Taiao – Natural Resource Management Committee to oversee the development of the new regional plan. The Committee comprises of seven appointed members from our seven iwi across the region and seven elected councillors. This builds on the Charter of Understanding the Council signed with regional iwi 15 years ago and the positive relationship the Wellington Regional Council has with regional iwi.