Today Horizons Regional Councillors discussed community feedback regarding freshwater engagement currently underway and continuing with planning until further direction is received from the government about possible reform changes.
Horizons has been engaging on provisional water quality targets which aim to align with community aspirations for rivers and streams since 1 November as part of its approach to implementing central government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020.
Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney says one way the council has been engaging with the community is via a public roadshow which has visited each district in the Horizons Region at least once.
“The purpose of the roadshow, and the wider engagement as a whole, is to go out with the information we have available and seek feedback on provisional water quality targets,” says Mr McCartney.
“We acknowledge there is still come information yet to come, particularly in the economic modelling space, so have let people know we would be back out again. While some were frustrated by this gap, it’s important to remember the provisional targets are not confirmed and hence why getting feedback is so important at every stage to help inform the next steps we need to take.
“We have also heard from the primary sector and parts of our rural communities a desire to take things slowly, where as other parts of our community have shared a belief that restoring the health of freshwater is important and shouldn’t wait.”
Mr McCartney says the engagement feedback to date was discussed by councillors at today’s council meeting with councillors acknowledging the uncertainty and pressure communities feel.
“Council recognises the new government has signalled some possible changes to freshwater reforms. So Horizons, along with all regional councils, will be seeking government’s position on the reforms we are currently working to and is ready to respond to any change that might arise from the new government’s direction in this space.
“One thing all of our communities agree on is the desire for improvement in the current state of freshwater. Horizons remains committed to the need for continued improvement in environmental outcomes across the region and Council’s obligations to our communities.
“We have heard people want more time to consider the current engagement and in response have decided to extend the timeframe to 28 February to submit on the provisional targets, with planning work continuing behind the scenes to progress what we need to notify within current timeframes.
“Finally, halting and reversing the degradation of waterways in our rohe remains a priority across the region – while what this looks like and how quickly it happens may change. Regardless of what may happen with future government direction, we will work with our partners, stakeholders and communities to develop an approach that takes us forward, but is also pragmatic and tailored to this region and its communities.
“Over the years a lot of hard mahi has gone into improving water quality by many parts of our community and we want to continue that journey.”
To view the current round of freshwater targets engagement and make a submission, visit freshwater.horizons.govt.nz.