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Maori interests top agenda for national planning conference

Maori involvement in freshwater management, indigenous planning and new bi-cultural tools for engaging with mana whenua are key topics at next month’s New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) conference.

A flax roots, iwi-led approach to urban and rural planning is one of the main themes at this year’s event, which will be held in Napier from 2 to 5 April. More than 600 delegates are expected to attend, including iwi, industry leaders, resource managers, urban designers, scientists, environmental advocates and local and central government.

Keynote speakers include Associate Minister for the Environment Nanaia Mahuta. Minister Mahuta will discuss New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity, and new measures being put in place to halt its decline – including the development of a National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.

Environment Minister David Parker, former US State Legislator Sue Minter, Waikato University Demography Professor Tahu Kukutai, renowned designer and sustainability champion David Trubridge, and Director General of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme Kosi Latu are other notable speakers.

The conference programme also includes a Papa Pounamu Hui. Since the formation of Papa Pounamu as a Special Interest Group within NZPI, the Hui has become a signature event that brings together speakers and delegates to discuss key topical issues and advancement in Maori planning practice.

The 2019 conference coincides with a period of flagship reforms and legislative change. The Government recently released its blueprint to improve freshwater quality, which will put in place new rules and regulations by 2020.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management aims to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and a new National Environmental Standard will regulate activities that put water quality at risk – including intensive winter grazing and hill country cropping.

The rules also set out a new approach to the Maori and Crown relationship that acknowledges Maori interests in freshwater management.

NZPI chair Karyn Sinclair says planners are in the spotlight in high-growth cities, as they work to avoid urban “poverty traps” and overcome infrastructure challenges.

“Urban planning challenges we face every day include stormwater damage of waterways, providing adequate housing and infrastructure such as schools, amenities and transport,” says Karyn.

“There’s also the challenge of finding ways to regenerate declining suburbs.

“We’re planning for future cities where top of mind considerations include big data, robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and 3D-printing. We need to think carefully about how people, government and business can function together in a highly interconnected environment.”

In the rural sector, Karyn says the planning industry’s focus is on the current challenge of maintaining productive primary industries with an increasing awareness of their potential effects, including water quality.

“Our aim is to ensure a long-term sustainable rural sector.”

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