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Regional council launches bold plan for environment

After a decade of consultation with the community, decisions on an ambitious plan designed to protect and enhance the regional environment were released today by Greater Wellington Regional Council.

“This is a significant achievement which will deliver long-term environmental benefits to the region,” says Greater Wellington chair Chris Laidlaw.

The Proposed Natural Resources Plan publicly notifies a broad range of decisions made on behalf of Greater Wellington by the Independent Hearing Panel following a lengthy and comprehensive submission and hearing process.

Developed in partnership with the region’s mana whenua iwi, the plan consolidates five separate plans into one designed to future proof environmental performance in the Wellington region.

“The new plan is easier to use and takes an integrated approach to managing fresh and coastal water, air and soil and discharges to land. It also responds to key issues such as swimmable rivers and clean coastal waters along with safe drinking water, protection of significant sites and indigenous biodiversity,” says Cr Laidlaw.

“It reflects values expressed by the community and environmental bottom lines required by government.

“We’ve also ensured the plan strikes a balance between protecting our environment and enabling sustainable use and development of natural resources. This is a real step forward and provides much more certainty for users of natural resources.

”It is patently obvious to most people that we can’t keep on doing the things we used to do regardless of their environmental consequences. We all have an interest in a richer, more sustainable environment whether we live in town or country and this plan delivers on that.”

Much of the plan focuses on water quality.

“Water is vital to all life and must be protected through sound environment management. Looking after water quality and its availability is the responsibility not just of farmers but of all of us – urban and rural, and that’s what the plan ensures,” says Cr Laidlaw.

The plan recognises the relationships that our mana whenua iwi have the region’s natural and physical resources, and basic Maori principles of stewardship are fully recognised throughout.

Development of the plan is not complete, and though in force it remains proposed as submitters to the Independent Hearings Panel have until 18 September to file appeals with the Environment Court. Others joining these appeals will have until 9 October to file. Recommendations from whaitua committees will be added to the plan as each develops its whaitua implementation programme.

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