28 May 2020

“It’s great to have the direction we’ve been waiting for. Now we can move forward faster to improve the care of our region’s waterways,” said Bay of Plenty Regional Council Councillor and Strategy and Policy Committee Chair Paula Thompson in response to Government’s Action for Healthy Waterways decisions released by Minister Parker today.

Councillor Thompson said that the confirmed national direction generally aligns well with local priorities.

“The actions announced by Government today are consistent with the work we’re already doing to stop further degradation of wetlands and streams, improve fish passage, and to help land and infrastructure owners minimise their environmental impacts.

“We’ve been investing heavily in science, policy development, and action on the ground for many years now in an effort to clean-up waterways. Water management is incredibly complex and it will take many years yet to see the full benefits of work already underway such as our focus catchments, Lake Rotorua nutrient management rules, and wetland restoration projects.

“The Action for Healthy Waterways reforms will give us stronger regulatory tools and streamline the plan change processes that are needed to secure healthy waterways and thriving communities for generations to come.

“It includes a strong emphasis on the importance of working in partnership with tangata whenua to incorporate the use of mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) in decision-making, and give effect to Te Mana o te Wai; recognising that sustaining the health and wellbeing of water is the first priority, before providing for human and other uses of water,” Councillor Thompson said.

Regional Councillors and staff will be working through the details of today’s announcement in the coming weeks, to determine the full implications for the regional community, current planning processes, and resourcing levels.

“We’ll then be able to adapt our work programmes, including our National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management implementation plan, and re-ignite discussions with Maori, stakeholders and the wider community so we can meet the tight timeframes now set by Government to progress this incredibly important work,” said Councillor Thompson.

Councillor Thompson recognised that people are already under considerable pressure due to current drought and COVID-19 conditions, which would add to the challenges of implementing water reforms.

“That makes it more important than ever that we collaborate and support each other to deliver the change that is needed. Our waterways can’t wait and by taking care of them, we’re taking better care of people too,” she said.