Environment Canterbury has made a submission on the Proposed Hurunui and Waiau River Regional Plan on behalf of the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee, reflecting the consensus from the committee on the difficult issue of nutrient load limits for the Hurunui catchment.
Around 100 submissions were received by the December 2 deadline and a hearing by an independent panel of commissioners will be held in the first quarter of 2012. The Proposed Hurunui and Waiau River Regional Plan is the first prepared by Environment Canterbury via the community-led and collaborative Canterbury Water Management Strategy.
Environment Canterbury Commissioner David Bedford - who is a member of the zone committee - said the committee had found it hard to reach consensus on the link between land-use and water quality in the time available. The zone committee and Environment Canterbury had been working to an October 1 deadline when the Hurunui and Waiau moratoria on consents ended.
"As a result of the timing pressure some of the differences within the zone committee related to nutrient load limits were not clearly resolved ahead of the proposed plan being notified," said David Bedford.
When the proposed plan was notified by Environment Canterbury (on October 1) it included load limits that would allow for some increase in the actual average for a five year period. This drew criticism from environmental and recreational interest groups at the time, including members of the zone committee.
At the zone committee's September meeting David Bedford offered committee members the opportunity - if they could reach consensus - to have further input on the load limits via a submission on the Proposed Hurunui and Waiau River Regional being prepared by Environment Canterbury.
"In addition to nutrient limits the zone committee wants to ensure freshwater management standards are achieved while allowing for both existing farming activities to continue as well as for growth in the area of intensive farming."
Following many hours of intense discussion the zone committee reached consensus that the limits should be based on the average loads over the past six years. The intention is these limits will provide a trigger for managing land-use intensification while ensuring water quality is maintained at an acceptable standard.
As a result a submission was prepared by Environment Canterbury and submitted reflecting the zone committee's consensus view.
"It is fair to say that reaching consensus has been challenging for every member of the committee as personal priorities have had to be put to one side to achieve the jointly agreed targets that the zone committee shares.
"In the end working together to achieve agreement has prevailed," said David Bedford.
"The outcome is that the independent commissioners appointed to hear and make decisions will be considering a plan which reflects the wishes of the community as well as providing for environmental and cultural gains alongside the opportunity for continued economic development in the Hurunui district," said David Bedford.
"This process represents what the Canterbury Water Management Strategy was set up for - to develop a local consensus on integrated water management solutions which could be recognised in a statutory council plan.
"The Proposed Hurunui and Waiau River Regional Plan recognises and gives effect to the 66 recommendations made by the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee in its zone implementation programme.
Environment Canterbury and Hurunui District Council accepted the recommendations in the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Implementation Programme at council meetings in August 2011.
Members of the zone committee spent more than a year in dozens of meetings receiving information and making decisions on priorities. There were also a series of public meetings involving more than 300 people, written feedback was received from 125 people and organisations on the recommendations, as well as extensive discussions between zone committee members and a wide range of stakeholders throughout the district.
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