The Otago Regional Council is pleased Environment Minister David Parker has commended its progress working through numerous plan and policy changes.
ORC’s chair Andrew Noone says he is pleased the Minister has responded positively to the significant amount of work and effort ORC staff, Iwi and community stakeholders have undertaken to move towards achieving a fit for purpose planning framework.
“The policy framework is extremely important as it provides greater emphasis on improving environmental outcomes over time,” Mr Noone says.
ORC Interim Chief Executive Dr Pim Borren received a letter (attached) from Mr Parker yesterday.
“Progressing these plan changes directly through the Environment Court has been efficient but has nonetheless involved considerable effort from Council, staff, iwi partners and stakeholders,” Mr Parker says.
His acknowledgement follows the recent delivery of a sixth update report to him from ORC.
Mr Noone highlighted a second round of community consultation is to begin for the new Land and Water Regional Plan.
“In October we’ll embark on Stage 2 consultation for the LWRP [Land and Water Regional Plan]. We’re looking forward to being able to engage with our partners and stakeholders from across the region,” Mr Noone says.
Mr Parker says “I would particularly like to commend the Council on the completion of Plan Changes 1, 7 and 8,”; which covered changes to both urban and rural practices.
Mr Noone says it was “very important” that mediation saw agreement achieved between the parties covering some parts of Plan Change 1 and 8.
“The mediation provided an opportunity to resolve conflicts, avoiding costly and unnecessary litigation for all the parties,” Mr Noone says.
Where mediation did not achieve agreement, the issues progressed to the Environment Court for determination.
“Legal challenges go with the territory. Although we can’t eliminate those challenges, we seek advice from experts to minimise the risk,” Mr Noone says.
With legal challenges, there is always a point where there needs to be a pragmatic approach, he says. “I’m not promoting legal challenges, however, policy is often enhanced with positive environmental outcomes as a consequence of these processes,” Mr Noone says.
Mr Parker says “I’m aware that the [High Court] decision has put pressure on your timeframes, and I appreciate the confirmation of your intention to renotify the new freshwater Regional Policy Statement by 30 September 2022.”
He has been advised that no party has appealed the decision, which now gives the ORC guidance to split the RPS into freshwater and non-freshwater parts, he says.
He also notes he is “pleased to see your ongoing commitment” toward the notification of a new Land and Water Plan by December 2023.
Mr Noone and Dr Borren say that “at this point” they remain confident of meeting the deadlines on delivering the RPS statement by 30 Sept and notifying the new Land & water Plan by December 2023.
“We continue to strive to meet the timeframes set in the short and medium term, it’s extremely unlikely that timeframe pressure will be less intense anytime soon,” Mr Noone says.
Background to Environment Court hearing
PC8 is part of a larger proposed Plan Change, called the Omnibus Plan Change, which was “called in’’ for fast-tracking by Mr Parker in April 2020; and referred to the Environment Court.
The Environment Court separated PC8 into two parts – the primary sector provisions and the urban provisions, to better enable mediation.
In early-June ORC ratified changes to the operative Regional Plan: Water for Otago, which allowed key parts of the then proposed PC8; related to rural discharges, to become operative.
The court’s decision on PC8 (Urban topics) was released on 14 June. The appeal period to the High Court has since lapsed, with no appeals lodged.
Letter from the Minister for the Environment