Otago Regional Council approves next steps to respond to Ministerial direction

Media Release - 27 November 2019

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) today approved a series of steps to remedy planning issues and respond to the recommendations made by Environment Minister David Parker last week.

Those steps set out the changes needed to put a fit-for-purpose planning framework in place that complies with national policy direction.

ORC Chair Marian Hobbs said the path forward was clear and achievable.

“I’m pleased that we have agreed a way forward. It’s been a long time and some members of the farming community have been put out by a lack of direction. There is now a clear way forward – and we’re not having any Christmas holidays.”

The recommendations considered by the Council were approved unanimously.

Council will immediately commence work on a new Water Permits plan change, to be notified in February 2020. This plan change will enable the efficient processing of remaining water permit replacements while the full planning framework is put into place, as recommended by Minister Parker.

There will be an opportunity to input into this interim plan change before it is taken to a Council workshop in early January. Staff will be sharing more information about this in December.

ORC staff will now prepare a formal response to Minister Parker’s letter outlining the plan to achieve his recommendations for Council’s consideration at a meeting on 11 December.



Frequently asked questions

Briefly, Minister Parker recommended

  • That ORC develops a fit-for-purpose freshwater planning framework to assess all water consent applications, including those to replace deemed permits before they expire.
  • The development of a work programme to achieve the following:
    • For ORC to notify a new Regional Policy Statement (RPS) by November 2020, to be operative by 1 April 2022
    • For ORC to notify a new Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) by 31 December 2023, to be operative by 31 December 2025.
  • For ORC to prepare a plan change by 31 March 2020 that provides an interim framework to manage freshwater until new discharge and allocation limits are set in line with the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

Minister Parker also requires six-monthly reports on ORC’s progress in developing organisational capacity and achieving these recommendations, and which summarises freshwater consenting activity for the period.

More information on the Minister’s recommendations, including the full report prepared by Professor Peter Skelton, can be viewed online: www.orc.govt.nz/mfereport.

The first stage is to notify a ‘Water Permits’ plan change, by February 2020, which will—as an interim measure—enable ORC to process short-term water permits of no more than five years, during which time the broader planning framework will become operative. The Water Permits plan change responds to one of Minister Parker’s key recommendations and his decision not to extend the deemed permit expiration date in the RMA.

The second stage is to complete a full review of the Regional Policy Statement (RPS) and notify it by November 2020. This work was already required to convert ORC’s RPS to the format set out in new National Planning Standards, although the timeframe has shortened.

Finally, the third stage is to undertake a full review of the Water Plan, and notify a new Land and Water Regional Plan by December 2023. Work has already commenced on this review, through setting freshwater management units (FMU) and our work in the Manuherekia, Arrow and Cardrona (MAC) catchments.

Plan Change 6AA defers the implementation of certain water quality provisions in the Water Plan, and the Omnibus plan change introduces a suite of provisions designed to immediately remedy deficiencies in the Water Plan in respect of water quality management. Work on these two plan changes will continue as planned.

Plan Change 6AA has already been notified and further submissions have closed. An Independent Hearing Commissioner has been appointed to hear the plan change, and the hearing has been set down for 18 – 20 December this year. The Omnibus Plan Change is to be notified by 31 March 2020. Due to the reduced timeframe, consultation for this plan change will be targeted to the key affected parties, including Iwi, DoC, Fish and Game, city and district councils and key stakeholders such as farm industry groups and water catchment groups. Provisions will then be developed and notified, which will allow the public to lodge submissions on the plan change.

The current work programme of science, consultation and planning in the MAC catchments will proceed as planned, however the resulting plan provisions will be inserted into the Land and Water Regional Plan in 2023, rather than forming a change to the existing Water Plan in 2020, as was originally planned. This will allow a process that is more efficient in terms of community engagement, resources required and planning outcomes.

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