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Healthy Rivers Appeals Advisory Committee Formed

Waikato regional councillors have voted unanimously to establish a committee to oversee the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora appeals process.

The four-member advisory committee will also provide guidance to staff in regard to negotiated or mediated settlements.

During Friday’s council meeting it was agreed the committee will comprise councillors Stu Kneebone, Pamela Storey and Tipa Mahuta, and the chair of the independent Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora hearings panel.

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington said, “Our plan change has paved the way for how legislation to improve freshwater quality should be done in New Zealand.

“We've invested a lot into it and so it's important we keep an eye on it as it goes through the Environment Court to ensure what we get is able to be implemented and understood by landowners,” Cr Rimmington said.

Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 – Waikato and Waipā River catchments – commonly known as Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora – was notified for appeals to the Environment Court in April this year.

The period for appeals on the version recommended by hearings commissioners has now closed, with the council receiving 24 notices of appeal.

While the appeals advisory committee cannot make decisions to change the plan, it will provide staff with guidance in respect of mediations, commonly focusing on changes in policy direction. It will focus on providing feedback on key policy shifts or on possible solutions that regional council staff are considering through the mediation process.

Background

Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora is the bold first step 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. Initially developed with the community, it allows for the management of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria in the Waikato and Waipā rivers.

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