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Early release of Policy decisions

Monday, 26 March 2012 2:38 p.m.

Water quality, land use and the coastal environment provisions of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's proposed Regional Policy Statement (RPS) have been released early to help inform the community on policy direction. 

The Regional Council believes this information will assist the community in making submissions to the draft Ten Year Plan 2012 - 2022, which opens for submission tomorrow.

The RPS provides high-level policy direction for regional, district and city plans across the region. The draft Ten Year Plan is being released on Tuesday 27 March for consultation with the community and stakeholders.

Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Raewyn Bennett, who chaired the proposed RPS Hearing Committee, said she believed it was the first time a Council had taken the step of releasing this type of policy information early.

"While the RPS is very close to being finalised, we decided it was prudent to release this information early," Councillor Bennett said.

"We'd like people who make submissions on the draft Ten Year Plan to be informed on the policy context of this significant spending."

Councillor Bennett said the RPS Hearing Committee heard from 98 submitters for 17 days during September and October last year.  A total of 183 submissions and 57 further submissions were received on the proposed RPS.

"This has been a thorough process and we have heard from a lot of people, which is great as it demonstrates the significant interest there is in the community about helping Council to get policy direction right," Councillor Bennett said.

"The Regional Council has listened to the community's concerns around the water quality of the region's lakes, rivers and streams. Its decisions on the proposed Regional Policy Statement are intended to implement a framework for reducing nutrients entering catchments at risk, with a focus on Lake Rotorua in particular," she said.

Councillor Bennett said that included in the RPS water quality and land use proposals were stronger references to the importance of soil as a resource, and that water quality was to be enhanced to meet the values associated with the water's use and protection. Council's decisions required a reduction in the levels of nutrients entering the region's water bodies. 

A variation to the Proposed RPS to make further changes to the coastal environment provisions will be considered in May before submissions are called for.  Those changes will see the landward boundary of the coastal environment identified and areas of outstanding natural character mapped.

"Releasing the coastal environment provisions early will enable the variation to the proposed RPS to give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 in light of the Council's decisions," Councillor Bennett said.

Key changes to the coastal environment provisions include the importance of coastal access for all and how 'appropriate' coastal development may be decided, more detail about mangrove management and a new policy discouraging hard protection structures to reduce coastal hazard risks. A new policy also provides for ports and their infrastructure.

The Hearing Committee's recommendations on the rest of the Proposed RPS will be presented to the Regional Council in June and the Council's decisions are expected to be notified in early August.

Decisions on the Proposed RPS are subject to appeal by submitters to the Environment Court. Submitters have 30 days to appeal any decision.

The draft Ten Year Plan and Proposed RPS are available on the Regional Council website www.boprc.govt.nz. Ten Year Plan submissions opened on Tuesday, 27 March and close at 4pm on Friday, 27 April.

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Boost to improve Rotorua lake water quality

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is planning to spend $45.5 million during the next eight years on changing land use around four of Rotorua's lakes to improve water quality.

The Regional Council has included the proposal in its draft Ten Year Plan 2012 - 2022, and is seeking submissions on it. To ensure the community is better informed about this planned move, the Regional Council has released parts of the proposed Regional Policy Statement (RPS) relating to water quality and land use.

The RPS provides high-level direction for regional, district and city plans across the region. The draft Ten Year Plan is being released on Tuesday 27 March for consultation with the community and stakeholders.

Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Neil Oppatt, who was a member of  the proposed RPS Hearing Committee, said the water quality and land use decisions were particularly important for the Rotorua community, given the work being undertaken on the lakes.

The $144 million Rotorua Lakes Protection and Restoration Action Programme partnership between the Regional Council, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Rotorua District Council and the Ministry for the Environment focuses on four lakes - Rotorua, Rotoiti, Ōkāreka and Rotoehu. 

Councillor Oppatt, who represents the Rotorua constituency, said all the Rotorua Lakes were a priority for restoring water quality.

"The decisions for water quality show the direction the Regional Council is taking for nutrient management in Rotorua lakes," Councillor Oppatt said.

"It is important that key stakeholders, iwi and agencies are able to consider in parallel the regulatory and non-regulatory approaches the Regional Council is taking under both the Resource Management Act 1991 (which drives the creation of the RPS) and Local Government Act 2002 (which drives the creation of the Ten Year Plan)," he said.

Included in the RPS water quality and land use proposals are stronger references to the importance of soil as a resource, and that water quality is to be enhanced to meet the values associated with the water's use and protection.

Council's decisions require a reduction in the levels of nutrients entering the region's water bodies. For Lake Rotorua, the RPS states that no nitrogen losses into the lake in excess of sustainable limits are permitted beyond 2022, a three year extension, and that land use change will be necessary.

Councillor Oppatt said all of these recent decisions consolidated a substantial amount of research and analysis that's been undertaken during the past few years.

"We encourage feedback through the Ten Year Plan, as we genuinely want to know what our community thinks about this proposal," he said. 

"We will continue to inform communities of future Council decisions and how these are implemented."

The draft Ten Year Plan and Proposed RPS are available on the Regional Council website www.boprc.govt.nz. Ten Year Plan submissions open on Tuesday, 27 March and close at 4pm on Friday, 27 April.

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Proposed Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement - November 2010