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Changes to Canterbur plan a ‘vast’ improvement – Fish & Game

Media release from North Canterbury Fish & Game
December 4 2013
Media Release

Changes to plan a ‘vast’ improvement – Fish & Game

North Canterbury Fish & Game believes that positive outcomes for rivers and waterways have been indicated in the recommended changes to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan.

Fish & Game mounted an expensive and comprehensive case against many aspects of the notified plan. In particular, a new framework was proposed that based consented land use on a nitrogen discharge threshold. “While not all aspects of this framework were adopted, it has fundamentally led to a more robust and environmentally responsible regional plan.” says North Canterbury Fish & Game’s environmental advisor Scott Pearson.

New land use that seeks to increase nutrient discharge levels in over-allocated (nutrient) catchments will be prohibited – this is a significant decision and supports the concept of maintaining or improving water quality.

The revised plan will place emphasis on farmers undertaking Farm Environment Plans (FEP’s) but Fish & Game does have concerns regarding how rigorous this process will be, including the level of compliance and enforcement.

Mr Pearson believes “the specific scheme must allow time for those with existing intensive agricultural operations to transition toward reduced discharges and water takes in polluted catchments.”

The new plan has placed a great deal of weight on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater and the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement, which is pleasing given the important hierarchy of planning instruments under the RMA.

“The plan no longer allows escalating agricultural development to be justified at the expense of lowering environmental standards – in other words any increasing development must co-exist alongside the maintenance of environmental limits and standards, to safeguard the life supporting capacity of our water bodies.”

The hearing commissioners have addressed North Canterbury Fish & Game’s concerns by clarifying that the collaborative model of decision making, does not supersede obligations of the regional councils to set limits and standards alongside other statutory agencies, and has stated “Whatever the value of a collaborative community process, it would not and could not replace the robustness and legitimacy of following the provisions of the RMA”.

Fish & Game still has grave fears for the future of Canterbury’s water bodies, but the positive changes signalled this week show that the Resource Management Act (in its yet to be reformed state) is helping to temper the tide of escalating irrigation and its associated intensive land use effects.

“Of course there are no guarantees that the plan will be effectively implemented and that is a task that all stakeholders will need to contribute to, and we must remember that the strong direction provided by the hearing commissioners could potentially be eroded if the Government’s freshwater reforms are passed.”

The Hearing Commissioners’ recommended changes to the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan (CLWRP) will be tabled at the Environment Canterbury council meeting on Thursday 5 December.

ENDS

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