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Waikato Regional Council To Withdraw Appeal On Plan Change

Waikato Regional Council will withdraw its Environment Court appeal on technical implementation issues in the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora plan change.

Council chair Russ Rimmington said following the meeting that withdrawing the appeal was a “no-brainer” when it was clear the matters raised would still be addressed by the court.

“The risk that these technical matters would not be addressed is now gone and, by appearing in court only as respondent, we will reduce this council’s legal costs at a time when we need to be efficient with our spend,” Cr Rimmington said.

In June the council had voted to appeal the plan change to resolve some minor technical matters that would better enable implementation of the plan.

At a meeting in Hamilton today, councillors voted unanimously in favour of withdrawing the appeal.

Councillors heard that 23 appeals had been lodged with the Environment Court and each assessed by staff. There was “a high degree of overlap between the matters raised by council [in its appeal], and those collectively raised by other appellants”, a staff report said.

While there were five matters not specifically raised in other appeals, two were errors or omissions which the court would irrespective need to rectify, the report said. The remaining three issues were not considered critical by staff and would highly likely be considered by the court as part of its broad discretion.

The council is party to all appeals lodged with the court, and the withdrawal of the appeal would enable a single, coordinated council response to all appellants, councillors were told.

Background

Waikato Regional Plan Change 1: Waikato and Waipā River Catchments (Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora) is the bold first step in an 80-year journey to achieve rivers that have improved water quality, are safe for food gathering along their entire length and meet the requirements of Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato, the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River.

It is a change to the Waikato Regional Plan, with rules to manage both point source discharges (such as sewage from towns and waste from factories) and non-point source discharges linked to agriculture. Developed with the community, it allows for the management of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria in the Waikato and Waipā rivers.

The “decisions” version of the plan change, recommended by an independent panel following 59 days of hearings last year, was notified in April for appeals to the Environment Court.

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