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Hearings start tomorrow on freshwater plan

ONE of the biggest environmental hearings ever held in this district starting tomorrow is aiming to create a plan that will manage the freshwater resources for the whole district.

A panel of five commissioners will begin hearing submissions on the Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan as the next stage in an eight-year programme.

Strategic planning manager David Wilson said this was one of the most important environmental issues to come before the council.

“It is the biggest planning thing we have done in a very long time. This is really significant because it is how we manage freshwater now and into the future.”

The plan has been split into four different hearings. The first, starting tomorrow, will cover the regional policy statement that Mr Wilson said was extremely important because it set the framework for everything to follow.

The other specific hearings will be for water quality and quantity and the final one will be for the Waipaoa Catchment Plan. That will be done late this year if staff can fit it in before December.

“This is a big deal from an RMA point of view for a council to get where we are. I am really proud of the team that has pulled this together.

“The staff have worked really well with the freshwater advisory group and the council to get to something that we are all quite proud of."

Getting the best outcome for the region had been the mind set from the start.

“The collaborative process we worked through with the Freshwater Advisory Group has really strengthened the plan,” he said.

The first hearing tomorrow would set the objectives and the policies that would achieve them. The objectives had been set with the help of the Freshwater Advisory Group, which had been working with the council for the past four-and-a-half years.

“A lot of it is around setting the scene for what is important for our values as a region for how we manage fresh water.”

As an example, objective two was that the water quality of the region’s fresh water bodies is maintained and improved in degraded water bodies or where there are fresh water values to be protected.

“The focus of this plan is to get the best outcome for the region.”

There were 42 submitters to the plan and they raised over 1000 points. Council staff reviewed them and they were presented in a report that contained recommendations from staff as to whether the submissions should be incorporated in the plan.

“Where we could get agreement, we have agreed. Where we could not, we have flagged that in the report. It has been a good process and the parties have all acted in good faith as we worked through it."

It was also important to acknowledge the work of the Freshwater Advisory Group chaired by councillor Pat Seymour, he said.

The hearing is before three independent and two local commissioners.

It is chaired by Mark Farnsworth with Antione Coffin and Peter Callender, and councillors Rehette Stoltz and Craig Bauld.

The commissioners will release their decisions once all four hearings have been held, said Wilson said.

The Wharekopae River. File picture