Hearings on the proposed Natural Resources Plan to begin
The final stage of debate on a new framework for protecting the region's natural resources began today (Monday 22 May) in Masterton, with public hearings before commissioners on Greater Wellington Regional Council's Proposed Natural Resources Plan.
The plan brings together five existing regional plans (Regional Coastal Plan, Regional Air Quality Management Plan, Regional Freshwater Plan, Regional Plan for Discharges to Land and Regional Soil Plan) and sets out the principles, rules and guidelines into one document for activities with the potential for adverse environmental effects.
"It's a very significant day for the region," says Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw. "We're beginning the final stage of debate and, in the process, hopefully getting nearer to reaching agreement with stakeholders and community on how to best manage our natural resources."
The hearings will be the culmination of a four year process of intensive engagement. Following extensive publicity on the plan Greater Wellington called for submissions, receiving a total of 526 addressing 14,500 points.
"Commitment to the process by individuals and organisations all around the region has been exceptional, and the quality of the input has been high. We would like to thank the community for getting involved in what is a far reaching plan that will help us protect our natural resources for years to come. It provides the essential baselines for positive environmental stewardship," says Cllr Laidlaw.
The hearings enable people and organisations that have previously submitted their views to discuss these with the panel and are divided into six streams:
- Stream One - overall policy framework for the proposed plan, beneficial use and development, and areas and sites with significant mana whenua values
- Stream Two - air quality management, land use in riparian margins and stock access to water bodies, and soil conservation
- Stream Three - water allocation, wetlands and biodiversity, and natural form and function
- Stream Four - water quality and stormwater
- Stream Five - beds of lakes and rivers, discharges to land and contaminated land, and hazardous substances
- Stream Six - coast, natural hazards, and significant historic heritage values
"The first hearing is all about the foundations, or building blocks, for the whole plan," says Cllr Laidlaw. "After that we start to get into the detail on the separate elements."
Each stream allows approximately two weeks to hear submissions, and the hearings process will go through to early next year. The hearings panel will deliberate as it goes, with final decisions due by 31 July 2018.
"That's not the end of the process," says Cllr Laidlaw. "We still have the whaitua sections to complete and any section can be appealed through to the Environment Court. But we believe we've listened to the community and created a better plan, one that's been road-tested since 2015 to find out what works and what doesn't.
"It's not about a dusty document telling you what you can't do; it's essentially a permissive approach that focuses on what people can do without needing consent. And where consent is required it's about understanding the effects of activities on our natural environment and what thresholds we've all agreed to live with."
About the Proposed Natural Resources Plan
The Natural Resources Plan for the Wellington Region (the Plan) is produced by the Wellington Regional Council (the Council) in accordance with the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA). It sets out the objectives, policies and methods for people and organisations that use the region's resources for a variety of purposes. It is a mix of regulatory bottom lines and non-regulatory interventions designed to underpin the basic objective of protecting our natural capital
The Plan has been developed in collaboration with the communities that make up the Wellington Region and have taken account of economic, spiritual, cultural and environmental interests in the region's air, land, water and coastal resources.
The development of the Plan is based on an ongoing programme of engagement with stakeholders, mana whenua and the community around the review of the five existing regional plans (Regional Coastal Plan, Regional Air Quality Management Plan, Regional Freshwater Plan, Regional Plan for Discharges to Land and Regional Soil Plan).
Many people living and working within the region have made individual and collective efforts to protect and enhance the natural resources within the region. Examples include: reducing the use of open fires in urban communities; protecting habitat for native animals; and fencing waterways on farms.
This plan will assist people in the region to take the next steps protecting the region's natural capital. The key natural resource management issues identified across the region relate to the:
- quality of fresh water in both urban and rural areas
- allocation and efficient use of water, including groundwater;
- state of the coastal environment, particularly the impacts that land-use and degraded fresh water systems have on coastal and estuarine ecosystem management of natural hazards, including earthquakes, flooding hazard and coastal erosion.
Other natural resource management considerations such as soil conservation, air quality, heritage protection and managing sites of significance are also addressed in the Plan.
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