The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is pleased with the quality of feedback following another positive round of consultation as part of the development of its proposed Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) for Otago.
Round two of consultation, between October and December last year, saw about 320 people attend community meetings across Otago.
ORC staff who attended said audiences were engaged and actively participated in discussions on possible environmental outcomes and the on the ground actions that would help to achieve those outcomes.
Key presenter and Team Leader Freshwater and Land in ORC’s Policy and Planning team, Tom De Pelsemaeker has, with his team, recently completed analysis of the feedback and submissions made.
“We’ve received a lot of useful and well-considered feedback from the people who attended meetings and would like to thank the wider community for their openness to share things with us that concerned them, their readiness to invest more time and effort into this work and their willingness to hear our story, that of mana whenua and other participants in the room.”
Common themes which came up in the consultation process were the need to recognise and provide for efforts already made or underway by local communities and landholders to look after the environment, as well as the need to better manage land use change in order to protect the health of our rivers and lakes and ensuring the plan does not conflict with other legislation that is also driving on the ground change.
Concern was raised for how the plan would reconcile the need for healthy waterways with the need to look after people’s health and wellbeing, including protecting people and properties from floods and ensuring community resilience and economic wellbeing.
Feedback was taken on board that some of the suggested actions or controls workshopped with communities to achieve better outcomes may not reflect best practice in certain parts of the region, could be impractical, or could have unanticipated or unintended adverse environmental effects. This feedback is assisting with the next stage of plan development.
“There was general acknowledgment that everyone needs to play their part in looking after the environment and make sure our rivers and lakes are in a healthy state. Cleaning up our waterways is the responsibility of the whole Otago community,” Mr De Pelsemaeker says.
“The ORC team thanks the communities for their honesty in raising these points and using this information, policy staff have been able to begin work on the plan content.”
General Manager Policy and Science Anita Dawe has been involved in the project from the outset and says, “It was great be back on the road and talking to people face to face about the next stage of information gathering.”
In addition to the FMU consultation, there were also seven workshops in December 2022 on regionwide topics, with about 150 invited people attending, representing a wide variety of stakeholders including community groups, businesses from various economic sectors, local authorities, and government agencies.
Attendees’ mid-discussion at a Balclutha community meeting
“We had hoped to be able to be back out for consultation and see communities in March this year but complexities in feedback and being able to respond to those actions that were not best practice has meant more time is required. We will be back out in the second half of the year, ahead of notification,” says Ms Dawe.
The third round of consultation, later this year, will present communities with region-wide provisions and bespoke provisions for each of the region’s Freshwater Management Units (FMU) and rohe (area). The deadline for public notification of the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan is 30 June, 2024.
Council is updating its plans to reflect new Central Government direction for managing a range of topics, including freshwater. The plans will give effect to the concept of Te Mana o te Wai: the vital importance of water and the understanding that protecting the health of water protects the health and well-being of the wider environment. This concept places the good health of all of Otago’s waterways first.
The proposed Land and Water Regional Plan will set new rules and regulations around water and land use, ones which reflect values identified during the consultation process, and those of mana whenua, Kāi Tahu, to ensure the ongoing health of these waterways. The plan will be formally notified by June 2024 and any person or party will be able to provide a formal submission on it.
“We appreciate that many of the actions that need to be implemented will be required to occur over time and that changes in our environment will also take time to respond.” Ms Dawe says.
ORC is working in partnership with mana whenua. This partnership means that Kāi Tahu, as mana whenua and representatives of the Treaty partner in the Otago region, are actively involved in the development of the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan at both a governance and operational level. This enables mātauranga Kāi Tahu to be an integral part of the knowledge base informing the plan, facilitates wider rūnaka engagement in the plan-development process, and provides additional support in writing the plan.
“It is so important we get this right. We need to ensure, for everyone’s benefit, that we are all prioritising the health of Otago’s waterways and planning for them to be sustainable and available for use and enjoyment by future generations and in the face of impacts from climate change,” Mr De Pelsemaeker says.
ORC is aware there have been multiple consultations for both the Regional Policy Statement (RPS) and the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan over the last three years and would like to thank those who have attended community meetings and shared their ideas and feedback with us.
ORC’s first round of consultation with communities between November 2021 and March 2022, allowed policy, science, and environmental implementation teams to hear what people knew and valued most about their lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and groundwater.
Values with the strongest responses were water quality, swimming, non-contact recreation, such as walking, sightseeing, camping etc. and water take/use.
Other values included fishing, aquatic species, threatened species, habitat, ecosystems, river flow and lake level, natural character, wetlands, and groundwater. These responses helped develop a planning framework for managing freshwater in the region.
Further details on the plan framework and prior rounds of consultation with communities.