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Water report cements role of regional councils

MEDIA RELEASE

Water report cements role of regional councils

15 November, 2012

Regional councils across the country are welcoming the third and final report from the Land and Water Forum.

Chair of the regional sector group Fran Wilde said the report cements the role of regional councils in managing New Zealand's freshwater resource and highlights the need for a more supportive national framework for collaborative decision-making.

"Regional councils are at the forefront of water management and use a variety of methods to manage and enhance water quality," said Ms Wilde.

"There is strong support among councils for collaborative decision-making regarding water quality management and we have a number of successful examples of this in action."

Canterbury is currently undertaking a collaborative process to set environmental limits for their waterways. The underlying philosophy of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy is that local communities should be making decisions on local water management. There are several other examples around New Zealand such as the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord.

Ms Wilde said that while a collaborative process for setting regional plans and policies was currently possible, it was challenging given the ability for parties to appeal to the Environment Court.

"Collaboration takes time, effort and commitment from all parties and there needs to be some incentive for parties to compromise. Some may see the Environment Court as an easier option to achieve their particular agenda.

“We welcome additional support from central government to encourage more collaboration in this space and now that the Government has considered it worthwhile to provide specific policy to support both Canterbury and Auckland in this respect," said Ms Wilde.

Regional councils also welcomed the recommendation for local decision-making underpinned by national bottom lines.

"There is no one-size fits all when it comes to achieving better water quality and local input is critical," said Ms Wilde.

"Adopting a singular approach will fail to win the long-term support of the local communities support, which is imperative if we are to achieve change. Regional councils are best placed to balance that local interest with national standards."

Ms Wilde thanked the Forum for involving regional councils in their process and said the sector was committed to working with government as they worked through the recommendations provided.

ENDS

Notes for Editors:
• Regional councils collectively employ over 450 water specialists and monitor water quality at 1000 sites across the country.

• They are mandated under the Resource Management Act to monitor and manage the use of natural resources including freshwater.