Media release

Councillors considering “quality feedback” from stakeholders in LWRP workshop

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Today’s ORC Environmental Science and Policy Workshop - Land and Water Regional Plan will allow Councillors to take on board key stakeholders’ input, says ORC Chair Gretchen Robertson.

The workshop’s purpose is for Councillors to consider the feedback from key stakeholders on the draft LWRP and check whether anything can be improved ahead of public notification.

“This is a really useful step and means that the initial draft may well be significantly different when it comes to public notification,” she says.

The 27 stakeholders who made submissions have put “considerable time and resources into providing quality feedback”, she says.

“The Council is giving due respect to the helpful ideas received, regardless of when the notification date is set for the plan. Understanding what key issues face Otago's freshwater management and how key stakeholders feel these are best addressed is always going to be helpful,” she says.

The workshop will also inform Councillors on whether to notify the plan on 30 June this year, or delay its notification until December 2027, says Cr Robertson.

“ORC has no wish to be defiant or rebellious. We’re walking a delicate tightrope of honouring current obligations with emerging government visions for freshwater planning. We’re keen to establish a transparent and constructive relationship which results in great outcomes for Otago’s people and waterways,” Cr Robertson says.

Last week Minister for the Environment Penny Simmonds wrote to ORC, confirming that the 30 June 2024 notification deadline has now formally been extended to align with the new statutory deadline of 31 December 2027.

“No decision either way has been made yet. Councillors will receive a report and then discuss and decide next week [27 March full Council meeting] on when the Plan will be notified,” she says.

Today’s Environmental Science and Policy Workshop is open to the public and will be recorded and put online on YouTube, following the meeting.

“We’ll shortly [27th] be considering staff and legal advice around our options for the LWRP work programme, which includes the option to pause, and also all the implications associated with those options,” CR Robertson says.

Cr Robertson wrote to Minister Simmonds early last week, outlining decisions taken by ORC in recent months.

She outlined the current “status quo” to Minister Simmonds, in that ORC was acting under official instruction from former Environment minister David Parker; under section 24a of the RMA, to notify its LWRP by 30 June 2024, but also noting Minister Simmonds had signalled her intention to extend the notification to 31 December 2027.

Cr Robertson noted Minister Simmonds acknowledgement ORC’s position is “unique” in being one of the earliest in starting its LWRP.

“There’s been many years of work by ORC staff already invested in developing the proposals for the LWRP, which should be seen through to its natural conclusion. Otherwise, we face starting over again which would become a burden on ratepayers,” she says.

She told Minister Simmonds Council had noted her “future changes” expected to the country’s freshwater framework, over the next 18 – 24 months, including a revised National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

Cr Robertson says staff had been requested to undertake an assessment, based on the options, of the implications for Otago’s freshwater planning framework and programmes; which will go before Council on 27 March.

The meeting on the 27th will consider objectively all the relative risks and opportunities associated with timeframe retention or extension, she says.

It does so with the benefit of five years of development of the plan including three steps of community consultation and key stakeholder feedback.

“This gives rich information for whatever happens from here,” Cr Robertson says.

The Council had noted that the Clause 3 of the First Schedule of the RMA; the statutory pre-notification consultation period, which closed on 23 February, elicited feedback from a wide range of 27 organisations.

“We’re really pleased with the engagement and time taken by all the submitters to air their views. Good points were raised for discussion, and these will all be taken into consideration by Council,” Cr Robertson says.