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Water Quality, Quantity and Ecosystems

CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S REPORT
3 JULY 2008

Water Quality, Quantity and Ecosystems

- Stage 4 of the Canterbury Strategic Water Study has commenced with the first stage of stakeholder and public consultation. The outcomes of the Strategic Water Study is a water management strategy for the whole region for at least the next 20 years that addresses water quality, water quantity and freshwater biodiversity. It will cover all major uses for water including agriculture, tourism, renewable energy, recreational uses, environmental interests and drinking water supply. The first stage of public consultation is about the uses and benefits of water. The second stage will focus on specific projects and activities. The project is overseen by the Canterbury Mayoral Forum.

- The Waihao River - Wainono Lagoon Management Strategy was ratified by the Waihao Wainono Water Users Society in June. The Strategy will soon be published. The next stage is to implement the Strategy.

- Prior to the 2008/09 bathing season, staff from the Waitaki District Council, ECan and Public Health South will be in contact with the Otematata Residents Association to discuss a combined approach to investigating the issues at Loch Laird over the summer period.

- Industry and local authority training on the revised Erosion and Sediment Control Guidelines for managing earthworks were held in Timaru and Christchurch in May.

- Meetings to present a NIWA report – Fish screens – good practice guidelines for Canterbury - were held in Timaru, Ashburton and Amberley in June. Attendees have provided useful advice on the direction of future work to test and enhance the guidelines.

- Hearings for the resource consents in the Waitaki catchment below the Waitaki dam are scheduled to start in August. The commissioners have issued a request for more information in relation to the North Bank Tunnel application. A councillor workshop on the Waitaki Water Allocation Regional Plan is scheduled for 17 July 2008.

- The Upper Waitaki Water Quality Trust did not reapply to the Sustainable Farming Fund for investigations in the upper catchment. The modelling work that Trust initially intended has now been picked up under the banner of Mackenzie Irrigation Company as part of resource consent applications.

- Hearings on submissions to the Proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan continued with an expected completion date of March 2009.

- Work to implement the proposed National Environmental Standard for Measurement of Water Takes continues through the Water Metering Manager.

- The Minister for the Environment has released a discussion document on a proposed National Environmental Standard on ecological flows and water levels. Submissions are due on 31 July 2008.

Pests & Biosecurity

- The Rabbit Coordinator has been involved in the Mackenzie Basin and Kurow pest districts:

o In the Mackenzie the Haldon Road group involved five landowners who had common rabbit infestation covering approximately 2000ha and after initial meetings were conducted a project plan was put together with the Coordinator’s assistance. Subsequently contractors have been appointed to carry out both aerial and ground control over the properties concerned. The Coordinator has been asked to give some operational advice to the landowners to further specify operational detail.

o ECan is working with seven land occupiers in the Maerewhenua catchment located in the Kurow pest district to implement a rabbit control programme this year to meet RPMS requirements. Enforcement may be required in at least one of these properties.

o A number of land occupier initiated rabbit control programmes are being implemented elsewhere in the Mackenzie basin.
 Bovine Tb vector control operations have been completed in the Southern area all within designated timeframes:
o Possum populations continue to decline as control pressures have their desired effect. Ferrets on the other hand continue to be caught in large numbers (over 5500) while not ideal these animals are autopsied and consequently give a very through surveillance picture of the existence or absence of Tb in the southern region. The Tb incidence in the ferret population has been declining since widespread vector control began in 2003.
o The area under control has expanded over the last few years as Tb continues to decline in the main areas and work can then proceed to the outer reaches of known Tb infected areas and completing the gaps that have existed between operational areas.
o New work in the 2008/09 year will be in the Otematata catchment, which has not received work in the past. Also there will be some extension to the Mackenzie basin operations where only 2 vector related movement control herds now exist. The other mc herd, which is in the coastal South Canterbury region, is a purchase related issue.
 In May 2007, DOC, Land Information New Zealand, Federated Farmers entered into an agreement to work to control wilding conifers in a cooperative way, to seek opportunities for additional resourcing to achieve the objectives, to set up joint processes to support the development and implementation of a wilding conifer strategy, and to gain wider community support for the control of wilding conifers. A non-statutory wilding conifer strategy for the Canterbury hill and high country is now being prepared including objectives, control priorities, cost estimates, and areas where the control of wilding conifers will not occur under present budgets along with responsibilities of each of the parties. The Strategy will be completed during the 2008/09 financial year.
 Operations to control wilding conifers have been undertaken in the Dobson River in partnership with DOC and the land occupier. This is part two or a three part operation with the final part being completed in the 2008/09 financial year.
 Inspections on the 35 sites within the southern area known to contain nassella tussock, to ensure control programmes have been completed to prevent seeding, are now completed.
 A partnership between ECan, DOC, Timaru District Council and the South Canterbury Conservation Trust in an attempt to reverse the declining population of long tailed bats estimated to number 150 -200 individuals. The Hanging Rock/ Kakahu area is the last known home of this bat species in the eastern South Island. ECan is undertaking a predator control on approximately 3000 hectares of bat habitat.
 ECan is working with DOC and Lincoln University to protect the only known site containing the Canterbury Knobbled Weevil. The weevil thought to be extinct since 1920 was rediscovered near Burkes Pass four years ago. While scientists work to identify the risks to this invertebrate ECan is trapping feral cats, mustelids and hedgehogs at the site and surrounding area to minimize the potential impact of predation.
 Property compliance inspections are ongoing to ensure land occupiers are meeting Regional Pest Management Strategy requirements as they relate to broom, gorse, ragwort, Old man’s beard and Bennett’s wallaby.
 A control operation to control Bell’s heather infesting 375 hectares of tall tussock grassland in the Hunters Hills. This is the only known site in the South Island.

Land

 Biodiversity Strategy signed off. The Regional Biodiversity Coordinator position has been advertised, closing date for applications being 29 June 2008. This position is 50% funded by ECan and 50% by central government and is key to the implementation of the strategy. Liaison with territorial authorities is an integral part of this role and it is anticipated that the Coordinator will spend considerable time in the southern region.
 Following community requests and wide public consultation, ECan councillors approved the establishment of the 165 ha Lake Tekapo Regional Park in February 2008. ECan staff will now work with an active community group on the development of a Concept and Development Plan. It is expected that some mountain bike and walking tracks will be available for public use from the spring of 2008.
 The Deer Focus Farm Public Field Day at White Rock Station, Rangitata Gorge was well attended. ECan staff have helped set up a water quality monitoring programme as part of a nitrogen fertiliser trial looking at developing tussock hill country without spraying and oversowing.

Regional Land Transport

 In May 2008, Government announced a $244 million crown funding assistance package for the Canterbury region, to assist it in delivering its regional land transport strategy. $33 million is earmarked for the next four years. This funding goes 50% of the way towards filling the gap identified between existing identified funding and that required in total. Government have indicated a modest regional fuel tax could complete the funding, however this is linked to the passing of the new legislation anticipated shortly. An MOU is being developed to set out the ‘rules of engagement’.
 The Canterbury Regional Land Transport Strategy 2008-18 is due for adoption by the regional council on 26 June 2008. This has undergone an extensive consultation process, with well attended hearings from representative groups from across the spectrum of stakeholders in the land transport system.
 The Canterbury Region Road Safety Forum was held on 13 June 2008. There was good attendance from across the region, with Road Safety Co-ordinators, Engineers, Planners, Emergency Services and Industry representatives in attendance to hear presentations from the NZ Fire Service, NZ Police, road safety researchers and an organisational psychologist.

Hazards

 Meetings have been held in South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, Christchurch, and North Canterbury to elect four gravel extractor representatives and four rating district representatives to the Council's River Gravel Liaison Committee.
 Meetings were held with 43 of our rating district liaison committees to elect new chairs and consult on work programmes and budgets.
 Fairway bed levels have been set for the Pareora and Opihi Rivers.
 Maintenance of structural works and channel capacity continues in river rating districts.
 Work on Washdyke Creek flood mitigation investigations and river rating district formation has been delayed due to resignation of Timaru staff member.
 The Ashley River floodplain modelling project was completed, including land use scenarios and reporting.
 We undertook a LiDAR (detailed aerial topographic) survey of the Halswell floodplain (in partnership with Christchurch City Council), Lake Waihora margins and the Selwyn River bed.
 The draft earthquake hazard assessment report for Waimate, Mackenzie and part Waitaki districts has been received from Geotech Consulting Ltd. It has been peer reviewed by URS, and comments have been sought from staff at Waimate and Mackenzie district councils and Meridian Energy. The main findings of the report have been presented to a Waimate District Council meeting, and will be presented to Mackenzie and Waitaki district councils and the Department of Conservation in the new financial year.
 The draft report on the Hunters Hills Fault Zone behind Waimate and Timaru has been received from Geotech Consulting Ltd and is currently being finalised.
 We continue to provide flood and geological hazard advice throughout the region.

Emergency Management

 The Boxing Day Tsunami event and subsequent events elsewhere led to a major review of the NZ National Warning System that operates from National down to Territorial Authority level. The system is exercised quarterly and is working well. Additional work is still being carried out at the national level to identify and recommend a range of systems that can be used by Territorial Authorities to issue warnings down to local community level.
 A National technical standard has recently been approved for Tsunami Signage. This provides for five categories of nationally consistent signs to support public education and response to tsunamis that may be used by Territorial Authorities in areas that have a tsunami risk. The categories of sign are:
o Evacuation Zones
o Information Boards
o Evacuation Routes
o Evacuation safe-locations
o Previous events (impact/elevation)
 Work is nearly completed on standardising the mapping of tsunami evacuation zones around New Zealand. There will be 3 zones:
o A ‘red zone’ which is a shore (beach zone) that can be placed off limits in the event of an expected tsunami
o An ‘orange zone’ which can be divided into an Orange A and B if needed to give more flexibility in calling official evacuations for distant source, e.g. South America, tsunamis
o A ‘yellow zone’, extending beyond the red and orange zones that allows for all likely and credible local-source worst-case events. In South Canterbury’s case the expected effect of a distant source tsunami is greater than any credible local-source and only red and orange zones are likely to be used.
 The first Canterbury CDEM Group Plan was approved by the Group in April 2005. Under the CDEM Act 2002 the plan is required to be reviewed after 5 years and that process will begin in the 2008-2009 financial year. A Group Recovery Plan has now been approved and it is intended to hold a Group Recovery Exercise later in the 2008 – 2009 year.
 The CDEM Group Joint-Committee has approved the Group budget and Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Environment Canterbury for the provision of Group Emergency Management Office services and the Group Emergency Coordination Centre for the 2008-09 year. The budget and SLA provide for a continuation of present work with a particular emphasis on the review of the CDEM Group Plan and the provision of training for the Group ECC and Territorial Authority Emergency Operations Centre staff

Navigation Safety

 Contracted patrols in the Waitaki Lakes ceased at Easter, but with the long summer our volunteer enforcement officers reported continued boating activity later in the season.
 Maintenance of all buoys and ski lane signs in the Waitaki Lakes was carried out with damaged buoys replaced and all their moorings checked and replaced as required.
 Navigation Safety staff attended the Waitaki Lakes Shoreline Authorities meeting and also a tour of the lakes by the Waitaki and Waimate District Councillors at the request of the Waitaki Lakes and Rivers Committee
 Large signs showing the boating rules for Lake Ruataniwha have been updated and the old signs are in the process of being replaced. They will be refurbished and reused to update signs elsewhere. Updated signs for all the Lake Benmore launching areas are being prepared presently.
 Regular contact between Environment Canterbury’s Regional Harbourmaster and the PrimePort pilots continues, and all the required audits of the pilots have been completed for the year.

Coastal Environment

 A monitoring report summarising coastline changes along the South Canterbury coast over the past ten years is nearing completion.
 The Timaru sea level recorder, jointly owned and maintained by PrimePort Timaru, Environment Canterbury and NIWA has entered its seventh year of operation and continues to provide valuable data on sea level variability along the South Canterbury Coast. An annual analysis report for the 2007 calendar year is now available.
 A new regional coastal water quality monitoring programme is underway. 32 region-wide coastal sites (including 10 between the Rakaia and Waitaki Rivers) are now monitored quarterly for ecosystem health including sampling of suspended sediments, nutrients, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen and water temperature.
 Consultation on the Regional Coastal Environment Plan Change Number 3 (Updating Coastal Hazard Zone positions) has been delayed due to the release of the Proposed NZ Coastal Policy Statement. ECan has made a submission to the Board of Inquiry and we await their recommendations and the Minister of Conservations decisions following the hearing process.

Waste, Hazardous Substances and Contaminated Sites

 Pollution Prevention - three FTE staff and 200 businesses worked with using the Pollution Prevention Guide in the 07/08 financial year.
 Agrichemical collections in Ashburton, Selwyn, Timaru, Waimate and Mackenzie districts completed with over 23 tonnes collected.
 Canterbury Region Waste Data Addendum Report (2001-2007) published.
 Funding provided to eight waste exchanges throughout the region, including Timaru, Waimate and Mackenzie.
 We continue to identify and list contaminated sites throughout the region as they are investigated for the purposes of land redevelopment and subdivision.

Air Quality

 Monitoring of air quality continues for Timaru, Ashburton, Geraldine and Waimate. Daily pollution forecasts for Timaru and Ashburton will run from 1 May to 31 August 2008. The number of high pollution nights for these towns to 23 June 2008 (for year ending 2007) are: Timaru – 21 (36); Ashburton – 12 (13); Geraldine – 5 (1) and Waimate – 6 (0).
 The Timaru Air Quality Working Group (a joint TDC and ECan working party) has been established and three meetings have been held since June 2007. The Working Group has been successful in providing a Clean Heat Project initiative in the Annual Plan 2008-09. The Working Group has also considered the communications programme for education and awareness raising of air quality issues, with further regulatory measures that may be necessary yet to be considered.
 The Ashburton Joint Working Group (a joint ADC and ECan working party) has been established and nine meetings have been held since May 2007. The Working Group has been successful in providing a Clean Heat Project initiative in the Annual Plan 2008-09. The Working Group has also successfully considered the communications programme for education and awareness raising of air quality issues and have produced a draft variation to the Air Plan which is expected to be notified in July/August 2008.
 The final form of the Clean Heat Projects for Ashburton and Timaru is currently being drafted, and will focus on a loans programme for eligible homeowners as a result of the funding form Central Government.
 Mediation process continues on the Air Plan.

Energy

 ECan has prepared a report on the inter-relationship of energy with other ECan portfolios (primarily air quality, water, land use and transport) to identify and address inconsistencies, omissions, policy contradictions, unintended consequences and policy shortfalls.
 ECan is providing support for community energy demand reduction projects and is examining ways of rewarding energy innovation through establishment of a contestable regional fund (in conjunction with energy companies and other funding providers).
 The biennial regional energy survey has been prepared indicating energy and electricity trends in usage for the period 2005-2006. For the first time since 1982, total energy use in Canterbury declined slightly for the 2005 and 2006 calendar years.

Public Passenger Transport

 Patronage on public passenger transport servicing Timaru continues to grow. Year-to-date (July 2007 to May 2008) the growth has been 5%, down slightly on my previous report where we had achieved 5.25% year-to-date. This is a pleasing result and a positive turn around for public passenger transport in Timaru following a number of years of declining patronage.
 Staff from Timaru District Council, bus companies providing our contracted public passenger transport services and ECan have initiated regular operations meetings that have proven very helpful in addressing any concerns associated with public passenger transport in South Canterbury.
 ECan is appreciative of the support for funding a new bus shelter and the relocation of an existing shelter to a more suitable position in the 2008/09 Timaru District Council Annual Plan. Transport staff at Timaru District Council have quite rightly identified lack of suitable shelter is a key disincentive to accessing public passenger transport.
 The Southern area Total Mobility committees (Ashburton, Timaru and Waimate) along with the Christchurch Total Mobility committee have recommended that ECan adopt the Phase Two improvements to the Total Mobility scheme as proposed by Land Transport New Zealand. Adoption of Phase Two provides access to an increased financial assistance rate (FAR) from 50% to 60%. The Total Mobility scheme provides a 50% subsidy on the cost of travel, generally by taxi, to anyone who has an impairment that prevents them from accessing 'normal' public passenger transport. The Southern Area Total Mobility committees and local voluntary organisations administering the allocation of vouchers on ECan's behalf do a brilliant job for the community.

Democratic Process

- Annual Plan 2008/09 submissions have been considered, including hearings held in Timaru on 26 May. This was followed by a full council meeting at the Southern Area Office.

- Preliminary work is underway for the 2009-19 Long Term Council Community Plan. This has included a one-day workshop for Councillors and various work strands being undertaken by staff. This will be pulled together at a further workshop in early July.

ENDS

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