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Decision out on Horizons’ One Plan

Decision out on Horizons’ One Plan

After six years of consultation and deliberation, the Manawatu-Wanganui region has a plan that upholds the community’s desire for clean water, protection of native habitat and economic growth. Horizons Regional Council today received the ruling from the Environment Court on the areas of its regional policy, the One Plan, which were under appeal.

The One Plan tackles the region’s four key issues - declining water quality, increasing demand for water, unsustainable hill country land use and threatened native habitats, providing a road map for the management of the region’s natural resources. It has been closely watched around the country as the first regional plan to tackle nutrient management on a catchment basis.

The majority of the Plan was settled through mediation, with just 20% of appeals left up to the court to rule on, including some of the more contentious issues surrounding nutrient management and native biodiversity.

The decisions surrounding nutrient management have resulted in bringing both irrigated sheep and beef farming as well as horticulture into the nutrient management regime. The court acknowledged that some farmers would need to adapt their practices to bring their nutrient losses within the limits of the plan but said there was evidence that this could be viably achieved.

The court also ruled that the region’s coastal lakes, including Lake Horowhenua, be reinstated into the nutrient management framework.

In relation to biodiversity, the court acknowledged that the Manawatu-Wanganui Region has only 23% of its original vegetation cover left, and only 3% of its original wetlands. The court ruled that all rare and threatened habitat, whether in part or as a whole, should be regarded as significant under the RMA and, where possible, effects on them avoided. If this is not possible, steps should be taken to mitigate the effects or the effects be offset by improvements made elsewhere.

Horizons’ chairman Bruce Gordon acknowledged the effort of all those who contributed to the One Plan.

“Developing a plan for the way our region’s natural resources will be managed was never going to be easy. As a collective community we’ve had to weigh up competing interests and make decisions based on what is the best outcome for the region,” said Mr Gordon.

“There have been a great many people that have contributed to that process, from individuals, business, interest groups and local authorities. While the reality is that not everyone can have their way on every issue, the input from everyone along the way has been critical to having an outcome that is workable for everyone.”

Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney said the One Plan provided certainty for the region’s natural resources both environmentally and economically.

“Although there have been differences along the way, at the end of the day everyone is seeking certainty for our resource. The One Plan provides us with this for example, we now have water limits across the region which allow for maximum use of the water for the like of irrigation and hydro electricity while also maintaining environmental bottom lines.

Mr McCartney said that implementation of the plan was already underway and the court ruling provided finality to some areas under question.

“It would be easy to think that this plan is all about rules and regulation as that’s where a lot of the debate has focused. However, the One Plan is bigger than that and looks at our whole approach to managing our Region’s resources,’ said Mr McCartney.

“Some of our most successful initiatives in this region have been voluntary, such as the Sustainable Land Use Initiative and the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord. These types of programmes are a key part of our approach to resource management and will continue.”

Background:

The One Plan is Horizons Regional Council’s regional plan to guide the management of natural resources in our Region. It's called the One Plan because it weaves together the six separate plans and Regional Policy Statement into one document. It provides an environmental roadmap, directing how we manage the Region's resources for the next 10 years.

The One Plan combines a Regional Policy Statement and a Regional Plan as is required under the Resource Management Act. It focuses on four key environmental areas that were determined through consultation with the public and confirmed through Horizons’ research. There areas are water quality, water quantity, biodiversity and land management.

Horizons began the process with community consultation in 2004 and first notified the plan in May 2007.

www.horizons.govt.nz

ENDS

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