Late August start for Regional Plan hearings

20 Jul 2018

A lengthy series of hearings to consider public submissions on the Proposed Regional Plan for Northland – effectively an updated rulebook for the way the north's water, air, soil and coast are used and managed – will begin late-August.

Northland Regional Council Policy Development Manager Ben Lee says the comprehensive plan – one of the most important documents the council has consulted on for many years – will ultimately replace the council's three existing regional plans, which are now well over a decade old.

He says the 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 proposed changes 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."

Mr Lee says the council carried out an extended 10-week consultation period on the Proposed Regional Plan late last year, attracting more than 360 submissions.

Beginning 28 August, four weeks of hearings – including expected appearances from more than 160 submitters – will be heard over seven weeks (essentially on a week-on, week-off basis) at Whangarei, Kerikeri, Kaitaia and Moerewa's Otiria Marae.

The full council has delegated those hearings to a three-member panel made up of Rob van Voorthuysen (independent commissioner and panel chair), fellow independent commissioner Miria Pomare and regional councillor Joce Yeoman. As well as hearing the submissions, the panel will also make recommendations to full council.

Mr Lee says submissions to the proposed plan which seek the addition of provisions for genetically modified organisms (GMO) will be considered separately by the full council in a stand-alone hearing in Whangarei. A date for the GMO hearing has not yet been confirmed, but at this stage will likely be in late October this year.

While all the hearings will be open to the public, Mr Lee says it’s important to note that only submitters who have previously formally registered a wish to do so will be able to appear in person before the panel to address the issues they have raised.

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

Several years in the making, the proposed plan represents substantial input by numerous stakeholders along the way but despite this, will be less than a quarter of the combined size of the three plans it will replace.

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 those five catchments developed plans to address freshwater-related issues of concern to them.)

Mr Lee says the full Proposed Regional Plan as it currently stands – and a series of staff recommendations in response to submissions – is available online via www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan  (This 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

Once the hearings are complete, the hearing panels will prepare its recommendations for council.  It’s expected the panel’s recommendations will be presented to council early in the New Year.