‘Umbrella’ plan for North resources to become operative

20 Apr 2016, 9:16 AM

A local authority document that provides a broad direction and framework for managing the region’s natural and physical resources has reached a significant milestone several years in the making.

The Northland Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement (RPS) identifies significant resource management issues for the region and sets out how resources such as land, water, soil, minerals, plants, animals and structures will be managed.

The RPS reached a major milestone yesterday when councillors approved virtually all of it becoming officially operative effective Monday 09 May.

Council Chairman Bill Shepherd says all appeals to the Environment Court on the RPS have now been resolved, bar one issue on how Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are legally managed in the region.

“The legal process surrounding the GMOs issue still has some time to run; including the outcome of a pending High Court decision.  Given it could take until the end of this year at the earliest to resolve the GMO issue, council has decided to make the rest of the document operative from 09 May.”

Councillor Shepherd says this is a pragmatic decision (designed to provide certainty to both the general public and Northland’s district councils when they update their own plans) given the RPS is an overarching ‘umbrella’ plan that impacts across so many areas.

The new RPS replaces a document that was effectively drawn up more than 20 years ago and takes into account some important changes that have happened over that time.

As an example, just some of the things that are covered by the new RPS include:

  • Maps identifying Northland’s outstanding natural areas and policies to protect them
  • A requirement for new houses near the coast to have a minimum floor level higher than previously required (due to predicted sea level rise)
  • Encouraging rules in plans to be as business friendly as possible, while still maintaining environmental standards.

“As with any new local authority plan, it’s never a quick process due to the various legislative and other hurdles that must be negotiated along the way,” Cr Shepherd says.

He says work on the ‘new’ RPS effectively began in 2010 and councillors are immensely grateful for the considerable time and effort so many people had put into getting the RPS to the point it is now.

“The development of the RPS has followed an award-winning and very robust route that has included a tremendous amount of public consultation and interaction along the way, including a great deal of collaboration with our fellow local authorities in Northland.”

A formal submission process as part of that had attracted nearly 1000 submissions in late 2012-early 2013, including many on the GMO issue that was yet to be resolved by the courts.

Councillor Shepherd says maintaining a healthy environment is still at the core of the new RPS, but it also puts increased emphasis on things like the economy, well-connected communities and minimising risks in hazard-prone areas.

“It has a much more integrated approach than its predecessor and is designed to align much more closely to the world we’re now living in.”

The RPS will be available on the council’s website from Monday 09 May at www.nrc.govt.nz/newRPS