More say for community in regional council’s freshwater plan

The community is to have much greater say about water quality and allocation limits in the region’s rivers, lakes and aquifers, under a plan approved by Wellington Regional Council.

Councillors yesterday adopted a timetable for implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which will include establishing whaitua, or catchment, committees to help set and implement freshwater management policies and guidelines.

Chair Fran Wilde said giving communities responsibility for their catchments was the cornerstone of the new approach to freshwater management.

“The committees, as their name implies, will take a whole-of-catchment approach, and their membership will be drawn from a variety of stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive cross-section of views are heard.

“The desire for a collaborative approach came through clearly during the community consultation phase of reviewing our regional plan, a process that has been under way since 2010.

“Rather than having local government dictating the rules, communities will be able to decide on freshwater quality and allocation limits within wider regional and national frameworks.

“Sometimes stakeholders have competing needs, but with this new approach they will be able to sit down together and work out what’s best for the catchment while satisfying the particular circumstances of local users. This ought to result in more consensus and less litigation.”

She said the regional council expected to set up the first committee in the Wairarapa Valley later next year, followed soon after by one for either the Porirua Harbour catchment area or the Wellington Harbour and south coast catchment. Others would follow for the Kāpiti and Wairarapa coasts.

Under the implementation timetable, the first two committees will report to the regional council on their catchment management approaches in 2016. These catchment plans would then become part of the wider regional plan. The next two committees to be established will report in 2019 and the final committee will report in 2021.

The regional council will decide details of the committees’ roles, responsibilities and membership early next year.

All regional councils must implement the national policy statement by 2030.