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Sandra Lee Speech - Wellington Regional Council

16 June 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until: 10.30am Friday 16 June 2000
(Check against delivery)
Conservation Minister launches Wellington Regional Coastal Plan

Wellington Regional Council , 142-146 Wakefield Street, Wellington City

Thank you for inviting me to launch the Wellington Regional Coastal Plan today.

I congratulate the council in preparing this Coastal Plan. I know Wellington region has a diverse coastline, ranging from inlets and estuaries to rocky shores, sea cliffs, offshore islands, and long sandy beaches. When you take into account all the sometimes-conflicting interests involved, ranging from commercial to spiritual and recreational uses, you can understand the complexity of the task of preparing a Regional Coastal Plan in such a "fluid" environment.

This is the fourth Regional Coastal Plan to be approved. The others cover Taranaki, Manawatu/Wanganui and Hawkes Bay. I am expecting a number of other plans to be submitted for approval soon, including the Chatham Islands, Otago, West Coast, and the coastal occupation charging component of the proposed Southland Plan. Most other plans under preparation are still subject to references (effectively, legal objections) before the Environment Court.

The completion record doesn't look great when you consider that the Resource Management Act came into effect in 1991 and the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement was gazetted in 1994.
But local authorities have found it unexpectedly difficult to prepare coastal management plans because of the need to take into account the broad cross section of interests involved.

Preparation of the Wellington Regional Coastal Plan involved consultation with many organisations and people including tangata whenua, community groups, other users of the coast as well as the Department of Conservation. I am sure everyone is aware of the particular significance of the coast to Maori. I acknowledge the laudable effort this Regional Council has put into consultation with tangata whenua, to ensure iwi views were heard during the process.

The Regional Council has also put considerable effort into negotiating solutions to the references (legal objections) that were lodged against the plan, and I commend Council for adopting this approach.

The purpose of the Regional Coastal Plans is to promote sustainable management of the Coastal Marine Area and translate the New Zealand Coastal Policy statement into the regional context. In deciding whether to approve a proposed plan I need to be satisfied that it is "not inconsistent" with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, and that none of its provisions are outside the powers bestowed by the Resource Management Act. The plan must also adequately address the resource management issues of the region.

I am confident that the Wellington Plan satisfies these requirements.

It provides for the recognition of areas of significant conservation value, such the Kapiti Marine Reserve, Castle Point, Lake Onoke and the coastal area around Kupe’s Sail, as well as providing for the special relationship of the tangata whenua with the coastal environment.
While as Minister of Conservation I am able to make changes to a proposed regional coastal plan, in this case I didn’t consider that any changes were necessary.

I am aware that there has been criticism from some councils of the Minister of Conservation’s role in coastal management. I understand that some councils consider that they can do the job on their own, and that there is no need for the Minister to approve plans or be the consent authority for restricted coastal activity applications.

In the light of this sentiment, perhaps I should take the opportunity to remind you why the decision was made to have the Conservation Minister involved in some aspects of the coastal management regime.

Firstly, the majority of the coastal marine area is in Crown ownership (although I note that there are a number of claims around the country for customary ownership of foreshore and seabed).

Secondly, it was considered that there was a need for someone to represent the national community of interest.

Thirdly, many issues in the coastal marine area cross regional boundaries. The coast is subject to large scale coastal processes involving water and sediment that ignore artificial boundaries.

And fourthly, involvement of the Minister of Conservation recognised that at the time the legislation was passed, coastal planning in New Zealand was in its infancy.

Because of these considerations, it was decided to retain some Crown involvement in the coastal regime by giving the Minister of Conservation responsibility for the only mandatory National Policy Statement - the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.

For the same reason, the Minister was also made the approval authority for regional coastal plans (which are also mandatory) and the consent authority for those activities described as restricted coastal activities.

To be frank with you, I have not been happy with some of the recommendations sent to me on restricted coastal activity applications, although I am also pleased to note that Wellington is not one of these poor performers.

I expect councils to take their Treaty responsibilities under the Resource Management Act seriously and the Government will be monitoring council compliance with treaty obligations. Of particular concern is the lack of iwi consultation by some councils and the poor level of treatment of some sewage effluent discharge applications.

In the case of sewage discharge applications, I expect councils to ensure that, if land disposal is not feasible, improvements are made to the treatment system over a reasonable time period to ensure that discharges are treated to a high level.

I would also like to remind councils of the policies contained in the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement concerning the maintenance and enhancement of water quality.

Up until now most of my department’s effort has been put into assisting councils with the preparation of their proposed regional coastal plans.

Now that there are a few coastal plans in place and a few more likely to be approved in the near future, my department intends to move onto the next phase, that of monitoring the effectiveness of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement in achieving the purpose of the Act.

I wish the Council well with its operative Coastal Plan. In now launching this document, I am confident that the Wellington Regional Coastal Plan will be an effective tool in achieving sustainable coastal management in the Wellington region.

Thank you.

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