Hearing for hugely important freshwater plan at midway stage

EDITORIAL

Halfway there and well on track — that is the situation for the five commissioners convening the huge and complex hearing on Gisborne’s regional freshwater plan, the first of its kind in New Zealand.

They have now dealt with the regional policy statement and water quantity in the first two sittings. Still ahead are water quality and the final section, the Waipaoa River catchment plan.

Chairman Mark Farnsworth and two other independent commissioners, Antione Coffin and Peter Callender, are joined by deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz and former councillor Craig Bauld, for whom this will be a swansong.

They have sat patiently through the first two sessions dealing with a mountain of paper in the submissions made and listening to evidence called to back those up.

While there are a number of issues raised so far where different sections of the local community clearly disagree, there have been no serious confrontations or eruptions.

This must be largely due to the work of the freshwater advisory group and the series of workshops held with stakeholders that were part of the eight-year build-up to the public notification of the plan, to which more than 40 submitters raised over 1000 points.

Submissions by Federated Farmers and Horticulture New Zealand show how important this plan is to two crucial industries for the region.

Iwi have made it plain they want their role as kaitiaki or guardians recognised. It is unfortunate that the establishment of a council management group with Turanga iwi, as sought by the Waitangi Tribunal, has been delayed because Treaty settlements have not been finalised.

Things are not going to get any easier. The next issue to be dealt with, water quality, includes the thorny subjects of wastewater overflows, stormwater quality and unreticulated wastewater treatment and disposal. The commissioners have scheduled hearings next month and in December, with the goal of having all the submissions heard by the end of the year — a really demanding programme.

Halfway there and well on track — that is the situation for the five commissioners convening the huge and complex hearing on Gisborne’s regional freshwater plan, the first of its kind in New Zealand.

They have now dealt with the regional policy statement and water quantity in the first two sittings. Still ahead are water quality and the final section, the Waipaoa River catchment plan.

Chairman Mark Farnsworth and two other independent commissioners, Antione Coffin and Peter Callender, are joined by deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz and former councillor Craig Bauld, for whom this will be a swansong.

They have sat patiently through the first two sessions dealing with a mountain of paper in the submissions made and listening to evidence called to back those up.

While there are a number of issues raised so far where different sections of the local community clearly disagree, there have been no serious confrontations or eruptions.

This must be largely due to the work of the freshwater advisory group and the series of workshops held with stakeholders that were part of the eight-year build-up to the public notification of the plan, to which more than 40 submitters raised over 1000 points.

Submissions by Federated Farmers and Horticulture New Zealand show how important this plan is to two crucial industries for the region.

Iwi have made it plain they want their role as kaitiaki or guardians recognised. It is unfortunate that the establishment of a council management group with Turanga iwi, as sought by the Waitangi Tribunal, has been delayed because Treaty settlements have not been finalised.

Things are not going to get any easier. The next issue to be dealt with, water quality, includes the thorny subjects of wastewater overflows, stormwater quality and unreticulated wastewater treatment and disposal. The commissioners have scheduled hearings next month and in December, with the goal of having all the submissions heard by the end of the year — a really demanding programme.

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