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Collaboration the key to improving environment

Thursday, 11 December 2014 2:00 p.m.

Collaboration with the community and other agencies is key to the environmental improvements Bay of Plenty Regional Council is working on, Bay of Plenty Regional Council says.

Chair of the Regional Council’s Regional Direction and Delivery Committee Paula Thompson said working closely with communities on the issues the region faced would lead to robust and long-lasting decisions which would enhance the region’s environment. 

She said the Rotorua community was very involved with the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme partners’ decision to introduce rules to manage nitrogen loss in the Lake Rotorua catchment. The partnership includes the Regional Council, Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Arawa Lakes Trust.

“For the initial phase of this rule-setting process we sought public input on the proposed rules. There’s been high attendance at public information sessions, open days and sector meetings. We’ve received more than 330 feedback forms from the public, sector organisations, land block owners and representatives and Maori landowners,” she said.

The report to the Committee had 11 recommendations, including changing the proposed limits for some properties smaller than 10 hectares, and recommended a delay in the regulatory requirements for properties between 10 and 40 hectares. 

“The section32 report now being prepared will define this process, evaluating the risks, costs and benefits of the rules. We will not have this report until March 2015, and any decision on the rules will be delayed until that report has been received and the implications considered.”

“This will be an incredibly comprehensive report that outlines in plain English the science, social and economic impacts. It also covers small properties, timeframes and the 2022 target, nitrogen allocation and the regulatory focus of achieving a clean Lake Rotorua,” she said.

The Committee also approved a Landowner Support Framework that focused on additional support for landowners within the Lake Rotorua catchment.

This included a $2.2 million advice and support project to assist landowners individually, establishing a Land Technical Advisory Group to provide an independently robust method for assessing nutrient management solutions and further investigation of alternative low nutrient land use opportunities.

Another $3.3 million has been made available to support landowners to change to lower nitrogen land uses.

Councillor Thompson said the next step would be to present these reports to the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme Strategy Group for endorsement by the programme’s partners in the new year.

The Regional Council is also working with communities to set limits under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. The Committee approved the approach for working with communities to set limits, and considered the role of co-governance entities like the Rangitaiki River Forum and Te Maru o Kaituna River Authority.

The committee also heard about the surveillance and monitoring techniques for aquatic weeds in Rotorua lakes, developed by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in conjunction with the Regional Council. These included using ‘citizen science’, shoreline searches, glass bottom boats and viewing scopes, in-water visual methods using divers such as snorkelling, scuba, manta board tows and scooters, hydro-acoustic remote sensing and laser scanning, satellite and aerial image analysis.

The report found that the Regional Council was already using best practice, as evidenced in the success of the Councils biodiversity and biosecurity programmes.

Toi Moana