Push to have One Plan reheard

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
MUDDY TRACKS: Mud underfoot by waterways is one thing but effluent and mud left on roads by livestock or farm machinery could prove expensive for Waikato farmers as the district councils have strict rules regarding stock movements.
PETER DRURY

MUDDY TRACKS: Lawyers for Horticulture NZ have urged the Environment Court to have the Horizons One Plan ruling reheard.

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Farming organisations that spent nine years fighting a landmark environmental plan now want the matter heard all over again.

The Dominion Post has obtained a memorandum to the Environment Court in which lawyers for Horticulture NZ urge the court to have the Horizons One Plan ruling reheard.

The organisation, which states that its memorandum is supported by Federated Farmers, says a recent report commissioned by Primary Industries Minister David Carter contains new information that the court should hear.

Horizons regional council's controversial One Plan was the subject of an Environment Court ruling in September that would result in limits being imposed on the amount of nutrients that could run off farms.

The ruling required Horizons to rewrite its plan to include the court's findings and submit it to the court's recommendations. Horizons did this on November 2.

The groundbreaking decision was condemned by Mr Carter and by farming organisations, who say it would make farming uneconomic and force farmers from their land.

The court heard from numerous expert witnesses and economists before concluding there was an urgent need to address pollution of waterways.

It found that the effect of the proposed measures would be a reduction in farm profits by an average of 5 per cent a year.

But the farming organisations and Mr Carter say a Landcare Research report published last week shows the cost would be 22 to 43 per cent. Horizons has disputed this, saying the report did not study the One Plan as it stood after the court ruling.

Horticulture NZ and Federated Farmers have already appealed to the High Court, but the memorandum sent to the Environment Court on Tuesday goes further.

It states that the Landcare Research report "contains significant new information about the costs and benefits of the various nutrient management regimes the court has been considering in the [plan] appeals".

It says the court has not issued its final decision on the plan, so it has jurisdiction to consider the report and "reconvene the hearing for the purpose of hearing evidence on it".

Alternatively the court could find, under section 294 of the Resource Management Act, that the report was new and important evidence that might have affected the decision, meaning it could order a rehearing.

The memo asks that all other parties to the appeal be given until today to state their views on the matter.

Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon said he was aware of the memorandum.

"We stand by the view that the Landcare Report was not based on the Environment Court decisions as affects our region."

ONCE UPON A PLAN

2003-07: Consultation on draft plan May 2007: Proposed One Plan notified

2007-10: Further consultation

2008-10: Council hearings

August 2010: Hearings panel decisions issued. More than 20 appeals lodged

2011: Further consultation and mediation

2012: Environment Court hearings

September 4: Environment Court decision given. Strengthens plan and requires council to rewrite.

September 25: Decision appealed to the High Court by Federated Farmers and Horticulture NZ.

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November 2: Horizons files rewritten plan.

November 15: Primary Industries Ministry publishes report that considers scenarios for Horizons area. None are same as court ruling, but Minister David Carter says the closest to it points to an up to 47 per cent impact on farm profits. Horizons says the closest scenario points to 1 per cent impact. November 20: Horticulture NZ tells Environment Court the report's new information warrants a reconvening of the hearing by the court.

- The Dominion Post

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