The Otago Regional Council has launched its campaign of community engagement to inform how Otago’s land and water – our most precious environmental assets – will be safeguarded for future generations.
The Council, together with mana whenua partners Kai Tahu, is developing a new Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP), and is seeking involvement from a wide range of people in communities with views and ambitions for Otago’s freshwater taonga.
ORC is promoting how and when it will engage with communities over the next two years in tomorrow’s Otago Daily Times, and in community papers throughout the region over the next fortnight. Further promotion of consultation opportunities will follow in the weeks and months ahead.
The new Plan for Otago will guide the way land and water are used in the future, in keeping with national direction from the Government and the principle of Te Mana o Te Wai, which prioritises the health and wellbeing of waterways.
Otago Regional Council Chair Andrew Noone said the development of a new Land and Water Regional Plan will position ORC and the community to achieve environmental outcomes that are important for Otago’s future.
“We know that our current plan is not fit for purpose, and our changing world means we need good policy to steer our future decision-making. This work is a huge opportunity for everyone in Otago to ensure we are ready for the challenges of the future, and that our environment is healthy and can support our communities moving forward.
“Otago is renowned internationally for its lakes and waterways, which play such a central role in so many peoples’ lives, for so many different reasons. It’s really important that we get this plan right for our people, as well as for the environment of today and for Otago’s future.”
ORC Chief Executive Sarah Gardner said it was crucial that as many people as possible have their say on the new plan, whether online or by attending drop-in sessions that will be held in communities around Otago, so the Council can hear what people have to say.
“The Government’s goal is to improve water quality throughout Aotearoa within one generation, and this responsibility sits with regional councils and communities. Our new plan must be clear and robust; it must prioritise the health and wellbeing of waterways; and it must have input from iwi, communities, and science.
“These are your waterways, so it’s vital you get involved and have your say about what is important to you for our future and our environment in the new Land and Water Regional Plan.”
View of the Shotover river.
ORC must notify the new plan by the end of 2023, leaving just over two years for the remaining conversations with communities in each part of the region to inform new rules and regulations around how water and land is used in Otago.
The Plan will include rules and limits set for each part of the region individually, as well as some rules that are region-wide.
The five geographic areas of Otago (known as freshwater management units) proposed through the plan are the Clutha/Mata-Au, Taieri, North Otago, Dunedin Coast, and Catlins. Due to the large size of the Clutha/Mata-Au unit, it has been divided into five sub-areas, called rohe, for a more tailored water management approach in these areas.
Mrs Gardner said ORC is working in partnership with Kāi Tahu, recognising their important relationship with land and water across the region. ORC is reviewing the existing water and waste plans and developing this new regional Plan with Kāi Tahu.
This means working together at staff and governance levels, supporting each other with knowledge and mātauranga, and presenting together at community meetings.
“From November until early 2023, we’re visiting more communities around Otago to seek knowledge and views on local waterways, how they are valued, and how we manage them in the future,” Mrs Gardner said.
“We will be visiting communities in the Upper Lakes rohe – which includes Queenstown and Wānaka – and the Catlins FMU in November, and we look forward to talking with anyone and everyone who is interested in the future management of Otago’s freshwater in the coming months and years. Now is the time to have your say!”
Cr Noone said high community engagement would strengthen the final product.
“We understand the perils of consultation fatigue, and we know we’ve asked for a lot of input in a range of areas over recent years. The proposed Regional Policy Statement, and now the new Land and Water Regional Plan, are policy documents that are too important to the future of Otago’s environment to be ignored. It’s vital that you have your say - the time to start this journey together is now.”
Otago is facing environmental degradation, a loss of native species, and a loss of cultural and community connections based around waterways, including swimming, fishing and collecting mahika kai.
Following a review in 2019 of ORC’s freshwater management and allocation functions by Professor Peter Skelton, Minister for the Environment Hon. David Parker wrote to the Council, setting out several recommendations for the development of a fit for purpose planning framework for Otago.
These recommendations included a complete review of the Regional Policy Statement, which has been notified and just went through its submission period, and the development and notification of a new Land and Water Regional Plan for Otago by 31 December 2023.
The new Plan will include rules and limits on water and land use. Some activities on land or related to waterways will be allowed, but others will need resource consent. Some rules will apply to the whole region, and others will only apply in certain freshwater management units and rohe.
For more information on the Land and Water Regional Plan, freshwater management units and rohe, and how to get involved in your part of Otago, click here.
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