First Whaitua Committee presents land and water management recommendations to Greater Wellington Regional Council
After four and half years of fruitful and intensive community-led effort, the Ruamāhanga Whaitua Committee has presented its final recommendations to Greater Wellington Regional Council. These recommendations inform an implementation programme aimed at balancing catchment communities’ aspirations for healthy, thriving streams, rivers and lakes and continuing economic development in the region.
“The work of the Ruamāhanga Whaitua Committee is pioneering stuff, its members have blazed their own path and lit the way for others to follow,” says Greater Wellington Chair and Whaitua Committee member Cr Chris Laidlaw.
“There were no rule books to guide the Committee, which was tasked with undertaking a huge collaborative process to identify and apply community values for freshwater. Their goal was to find ways to meet national bottom lines for water quality and allocation. “The Committee’s aim was to achieve these goals in a fair, open and accountable way, and I think they have done that. The whaitua’s work has sparked a realisation that local catchment communities hold the key to future management of freshwater and this is a very positive development. We hope to replicate this model elsewhere around the region.”
“The outcome is a comprehensive set of recommendations which will ensure we will improve the quality of water in the catchment, something that many people have consistently called for. The Committee’s work answers that call.
“There is also a clear recognition that we are all in this together in managing water. It is not just farmers who are responsible for degradation of water quality. Far from it. The urban communities are equally responsible for both the problem and the solutions.”
Under the Ruamāhanga Whaitua Implementation Programme (WIP) being presented to Greater Wellington, vital areas of activity such as managing the catchment’s rivers and lakes, preventing their contamination by discharges and land use, and ensuring sustainable water flows and allocation are covered.
In developing its recommendations, the Committee intensively engaged the Ruamāhanga community, including iwi and hapu, business owners, farmers and a range of interest groups. Meetings were held in country halls, marae and town centres across the Ruamāhanga valley.
“The Whaitua Committee has listened and responded to public feedback. For example, in relation to concerns about providing water to Masterton’s Henley Lake and Queen Elizabeth Park Lake of Remembrance, we’ve responded to feedback to make provision for water to be available when the rivers fall below their minimum flow.”
Cr Laidlaw adds that the Committee has also heard comment from some people in the rural community that improving water quality will impose additional costs on farmers and, therefore, on local businesses.
“The Committee’s WIP is a pragmatic document. It provides time to transition to the new rules and policies and plenty of time for a creative and innovative response from both our rural and urban communities.”
“It’s been long journey but much progress has been made. I would sincerely like to give my thanks to all Committee members, and especially the chair, Peter Gawith, for sticking with it for the benefit of their community,” says Cr Laidlaw.
The Committee will continue to work with Greater Wellington as an advisory body to ensure that the direction and intent of the WIP recommendations continue into the rules, policies and methods drafted as part of the plan change/variation process.