Long road ahead for commissioners of freshwater plan

EDITORIAL

Public submissions on the draft freshwater plan — probably the biggest environmental hearing ever held in this district — have ended, but for the panel of commissioners the hard work will start now. The panel has sat through four long hearings starting from August, been presented with a range of conflicting views and reams of technical details.

Chairman Mark Farnsworth and his fellow independent commissioners Antoine Coffin and Peter Callander along with deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz and former councillor Craig Bauld (the latter two are qualified commissioners) have sat patiently listening to a variety of submissions.

There are some big issues for them to consider such as minimum standards for water, what quantities can be extracted, and what size is required for riparian setbacks to protect waterways, which is an important issue for farming, horticulture and forestry interests.

Then there is the role of Maori. Right from the first day of the hearings Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou representatives made it plain that they wanted Maori cultural values to be recognised in the plan. On the last day they were calling for mauri, the concept of life-supporting capacity, to be recognised in the plan. They want the mauri compass, developed by iwi representative Ian Ruru with council staff, to be used to measure water quality.

One major decision is how the controversial discharges of wastewater into the city rivers should be categorised. Gisborne District Council’s engineering and works department want this to continue as a non-notified and controlled emergency measure rather than a recommendation that it undergo a fully publicly notified discretionary activity process. Wading through all the submissions and technical details is going to be a Herculean effort.

Mr Farnsworth was reluctant to set a time frame, saying only they would be working on it over the summer. A decision is realistically unlikely therefore until well into the new year. It will then be subject to rigorous examination by affected parties and their advisers. This issue has a long way to go yet.

Public submissions on the draft freshwater plan — probably the biggest environmental hearing ever held in this district — have ended, but for the panel of commissioners the hard work will start now. The panel has sat through four long hearings starting from August, been presented with a range of conflicting views and reams of technical details.

Chairman Mark Farnsworth and his fellow independent commissioners Antoine Coffin and Peter Callander along with deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz and former councillor Craig Bauld (the latter two are qualified commissioners) have sat patiently listening to a variety of submissions.

There are some big issues for them to consider such as minimum standards for water, what quantities can be extracted, and what size is required for riparian setbacks to protect waterways, which is an important issue for farming, horticulture and forestry interests.

Then there is the role of Maori. Right from the first day of the hearings Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou representatives made it plain that they wanted Maori cultural values to be recognised in the plan. On the last day they were calling for mauri, the concept of life-supporting capacity, to be recognised in the plan. They want the mauri compass, developed by iwi representative Ian Ruru with council staff, to be used to measure water quality.

One major decision is how the controversial discharges of wastewater into the city rivers should be categorised. Gisborne District Council’s engineering and works department want this to continue as a non-notified and controlled emergency measure rather than a recommendation that it undergo a fully publicly notified discretionary activity process. Wading through all the submissions and technical details is going to be a Herculean effort.

Mr Farnsworth was reluctant to set a time frame, saying only they would be working on it over the summer. A decision is realistically unlikely therefore until well into the new year. It will then be subject to rigorous examination by affected parties and their advisers. This issue has a long way to go yet.

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