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Updated Proposed Regional Plan for Northland publicly notified

6 May 2019, 1:44 PM

The most significant resource management planning document for years – one which effectively becomes the updated rulebook for the way Northland’s water, air, soil and coast are all used and managed – has just been publicly notified.

In mid-April Northland Regional Councillors formally accepted the recommendations of a three-strong hearing panel which had spent weeks listening to, reading and carefully considering hundreds of public submissions on the Proposed Regional Plan for Northland.

Cover of the Proposed Regional Plan.

The new ‘decisions version’ of the Proposed Regional Plan was officially publicly notified on Saturday, 04 May and replaces the previous version, released in September 2017. (The new notification means submitters now have 30 working days from Saturday 04 May to lodge any appeals to the Environment Court.)

The hearings panel – Rob van Voorthuysen (independent commissioner and panel chair), fellow independent commissioner Miria Pomare and regional councillor Joce Yeoman – was appointed by council last year.

The panel was given the weighty task of hearing the public’s views on the new plan and making associated recommendations to full council.

One of the most important documents the council has consulted on for many years, the plan – effectively five years in the making – will replace the council’s three existing regional plans (Water and Soil, Air Quality and Coastal) which are now well over a decade old.

The regional council’s Strategy Policy and Planning Manager Ben Lee says it covers a broad range of activities, including proposed rules for use and development in the coastal marine area, 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.”

The one issue the panel has not traversed is submissions seeking the addition of provisions for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Submissions in that regard were considered by the full council.

“Council is still deliberating on the GMO provisions and a separate decision will be made shortly,” Mr Lee says.

Mr Lee says the proposed plan had involved extensive community consultation over the past several years.

“A draft of the Plan was released for public feedback in August 2016 and almost 290 people and organisations provided feedback. The Proposed Plan was publicly notified in September 2017, with further submissions notified in March last year.”

More than 400 submissions and further submissions were received and between August and October last year, the Hearings Panel carried out hearings at Whangarei, Kerikeri, Kaitaia and Moerewa’s Otiria Marae.

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

“The proposed plan as it currently stands 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 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 new plan and background information can be found online at: www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan