Do you support millions of dollars being spent trying to clean up Waikato and Waipa Rivers?
A multimillion-dollar push to clean up the region's two main waterways has begun.
Waikato Regional Council this week agreed to start a far-reaching process aimed at reversing declining water quality in the Waikato and Waipa rivers.
The development of a plan change to the Waikato Regional Plan will focus on managing adverse effects from discharges to land and water in the Waikato and Waipa catchments.
Council monitoring of the two rivers shows water quality is in decline.
The council has also committed itself to working with iwi and stakeholders to explain the plan change ahead of a formal submission process.
But rates control councillors Jane Hennebry and Russ Rimmington questioned the timing of the plan change, saying the council was best to delay the process until after the Government's local government reforms.
The regional council has estimated the draft plan change will cost about $1.8 million a year for three and a half years. Of the $1.8m a year, $700,000 are direct costs.
Ms Hennebry said the plan change did not have to be "rushed" and urged the council to talk to stakeholders before starting the process.
In response, Cr Stu Kneebone said the draft plan change was being driven by several factors, including the Government's national policy statement for freshwater management 2011.
The policy requires regional councils to set freshwater objectives and limits and manage discharges as "promptly as is reasonable in the circumstances" and ideally to make changes necessary to implement the policy by December 2014. Every regional council is required to fully implement its policy no later than December 2030.
Mr Kneebone said stakeholders such as farmers were well aware of the policy statement and wanted certainty around the issue. He said many farmers were already doing good things regarding protecting water quality "and it's important the council's policies and planning support these initiatives."
"Farmers are running businesses and need certainty."
Council staff are expected to start work on the draft plan change in September, while a proposed plan change is expected to be publicly notified for submissions in 2015.
Councillor Laurel Burdett said the longer efforts to restore the rivers were delayed, the more difficult the task would become.
"I personally think leaving a legacy of a dirty Waikato River for our grandchildren is not acceptable," she said.
Meanwhile, councillors voted 8-2 to keep the membership of its land and water quality subcommittee to six councillors, despite requests by Ms Hennebry and Mr Rimmington to open it up to all 12 councillors.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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