Ten weeks to have say on Proposed Regional Plan

1 Sep 2017, 9:25 AM

Public comment is being sought on what is effectively an updated rulebook for the way Northland's water, air, soil and coast are used and managed.

Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd says the council's Proposed Regional Plan will be formally notified on Wednesday, 06 September, marking the official start of an extended 10-week public consultation period.

Chairman Shepherd says the plan will ultimately replace the council's three existing regional plans, which are now well over a decade old.

"It's not an understatement to label it one of – if not the – most important documents council has consulted on for many years."

He says the council has worked incredibly hard to make the new plan simpler, more streamlined and easier to use than its predecessors.

"For starters, despite its significance, this new plan is less than a quarter of the combined size of the three plans it will replace. It has been more than three years in the making, and represents substantial input by numerous stakeholders along the way."

That work had included publicly releasing a first draft of the plan last year to 'road-test' it.

"The feedback we received from nearly 300 people and organisations as part of that road test really helped us refine what the plan is today."

Councillor Joce Yeoman, who chaired the council's Regional Plan Working Party, says the comprehensive plan covers a broad range of activities, including proposed rules for coastal works, earthworks, water use and discharges to air, land and water.

"Among key changes in the proposed plan are new limits on taking water from rivers, lakes and aquifers, making it easier to get permission for mangrove removal and new stock exclusion rules for rivers, drains, wetlands and lakes."

Both Cr Yeoman and Chairman Shepherd say given the wide scope of the plan, the council is very keen to make sure people have plenty of time to digest its detail and formulate their feedback.

“With that in mind, we’ve extended the usual eight-week submission period by an extra fortnight so people will have 10 weeks to have their say; from 06 September to 15 November,” Chairman Shepherd says.

In a new approach to fresh water management, the Proposed Regional Plan also has some tailor-made rules for five priority water catchments; Doubtless Bay, Pouto, Waitangi, Whangarei and Mangere.

“Stakeholder groups within each of these five catchments developed plans to address freshwater-related issues of particular concern to them,” Chairman Shepherd says.  “My colleagues and I would like to acknowledge and thank group members for their collaborative efforts and hard work over the past couple of years.”

People interested in reading the full Proposed Regional plan can do so online from Wednesday, 6 September at www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan  (As well as the plan itself, the site also contains a suite of background reports and technical documents.)

Similarly, full plans for the five priority water catchments are available at: www.nrc.govt.nz/catchmentplans

Submissions can be made until 4pm, Wednesday 15 November.