Yesterday the HB Regional Council — you remember, the Councillors charged with protecting the region’s environment and natural resources — decided its stance on a new National Policy Standard on Freshwater Management. This proposal aims at strengthening water protections, and was initiated by the late dearly departed Labour Government. It is now out for public consultation.
The position of our regional environmental leaders: “Tell ’em to stuff it!” (A rhetorical replay of the Council’s position on new healthy air standards … do we see a pattern here?!)
Surely there are refinements to the proposed National Standard that are needed to make it an effective and more exacting policy directive. That’s what the consultation process is all about.
But that’s precisely what our Regional Council (with the exception of Councillor Remmerswaal) does not want to see — an effective national policy directive. The simple truth: the HBRC does not want to be instructed on what to do about water management and quality by Wellington. Instead, the Council wants maximum latitude to conduct business as usual … which means shovel those water extraction consents out the door and “study” water quality issues until the cows come home.
In fact, what the HBRC really wishes is that the new team in Wellington will simply abandon the very idea of a national policy standard. To that end, Councillor Scott, not to be outdone on the “let’s trash the national standard” bandwagon, proposed, and the Council approved (Remmerswaal dissenting), the idea of dealing with the subject, instead, through the re-writing of the Resource Management Act (RMA) that the National-led Government has begun. This is, of course, a strategy grounded in the assumption that National’s RMA re-write will result in a weaker RMA.
The rhetoric from the Regional Council about treating water as a strategic priority increasingly seems to be just that … rhetoric.