Councillors green light proposed Otago Regional Policy Statement to be publicly notified

Thursday 28 March 2024

Following delivery of a recommendations report by the two Independent Hearings Panels over the Proposed Otago Regional Policy Statement (pORPS), ORC’s Councillors yesterday accepted the report and moved to publicly notify the document.

The pORPS will be publicly notified, on 30 March 2024, on ORC’s website, with the Panel’s decision also available on the site.

The decision to accept both the freshwater and non-freshwater recommendations was made in the non-public part of yesterday’s full Council meeting, because the Panel’s report and recommendations are subject to appeals.

“The pORPS shapes the management of Otago’s resources and will be important for, among other things the Land and Water Regional Plan,” says ORC’s Chair Gretchen Robertson.

“We thank the Panel for providing their well thought out report and decision, and for the many submitters who committed a great deal of time to prepare and present to the Panel. This was a robust process with plenty of good evidence provided,” Cr Robertson says.

The adoption of the decision by Council now moves the RPS into the next phase of the process, says ORC’s General Manager Policy and Science, Anita Dawe.

Submitters can now lodge legal appeals on decisions, as provided by the Resource Management Act, for each respective part, be it the freshwater part or non-freshwater part; within 30 working days to the Environment Court or 15 working days to the High Court.


Definition- Freshwater part and non-freshwater part

The freshwater part covers the regulation, environmental protections and water quantity and quality for lakes and dams and rivers and streams across Otago. The non-freshwater part covers coast, air, urban areas, wetlands, regionally significant issues, natural features and landscapes, ecosystems and indigenous biodiversity, hazards and risks and manawhenua issues.

Ms Dawe says the appeal periods and Panel’s decision will be loaded to the ORC’s website on Saturday, 30 March.


Intent and process of the Regional Policy Statement

 The RPS identifies the regionally significant issues around the management of Otago’s natural and physical resources and sets out what needs to be achieved through ‘objectives’ and the way in which they will be achieved, through policies and methods.

Cr Robertson says the RPS provides an overview of the resource management issues of the region and policies and methods to achieve integrated management of the natural and physical resources of the region.

As a result of the Council adopting the recommendations yesterday, for the time being it is still a ‘proposed Plan’ until the appeals period is resolved, she says.

Cr Robertson says regional and district plans of councils must “give effect to” and implement Regional Policy Statements.

“It’s a strong directive which creates a firm obligation on the part of those subject to it,” she says.

For those applying for resource consents, the RPS will better define the objectives and applicants’ obligations to protect and enhance for more positive environmental outcomes, be they affecting land, water, air, ecosystems or biodiversity, she says.


Splitting the pORPS into freshwater and non-freshwater

 There was a legal requirement (detailed below) to split the pORPS – into freshwater and non-freshwater parts – which resulted in about 45 provisions considered to relate directly to the management of freshwater quality or quantity, with those provisions forming the freshwater part of the pORPS.

Ms Dawe noted the Panel’s decision drew together again both the freshwater and non-freshwater parts and was presented as one “integrated document”.

Anyone who had already submitted on the identified freshwater provisions had to resubmit on that part for their submissions to be able to be considered, Ms Dawe says.

The balance of the pORPS, being the non-freshwater parts, were not required to be re-notified so all submissions on the provisions in the non-freshwater part of the pORPS remained in place.

The non-freshwater part of the pORPS was the larger of the two documents.

Submissions closed in November 2022. The Panel appointed to hear both the non-freshwater and freshwater submissions on the pORPS were Ron Crosby (Chair), Bianca Sullivan, Allan Cubitt and Rauru Kirikiri. The public hearings were held over January-February 2023.


Why was there a new submission process?

In June 2021, ORC publicly notified its pORPS, determining at the that time the whole of the pORPS was a ‘freshwater planning instrument’. Declarations on that definition were then sought in the High Court by ORC and Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.

The High Court’s decision in July found the ORC erred in determining that the whole of its pORPS was a freshwater instrument, and directed the ORC split the pORPS into two parts; those which relate to freshwater and those which do not. That is why submissions were again sought on the freshwater provisions.