The Regional Council was given devastating news by staff on Wednesday. It probably ruined their lunch.
The news: sorting out a strategy for cleaning up the Taharua and Mohaka Rivers was going to be much tougher than expected … and significant delays should be expected. There won’t even be another status report on just how long it might take until next February!
Why so difficult?
Because the Regional Council might actually — finally — have to face up to the “R” word … REGULATION.
As BayBuzz readers appreciate, the Regional Council has big problems with the R word. Merely voicing the word makes their speech slur and bodies twitch.
Even worse, deciding that, in order to protect water quality, they might actually have to regulate what farmers do on their land causes near apoplexy.
Yet that is what staff was signaling in its report. “Educating” and saying “pretty please” just might not be enough. And because of that, staff — on the expert advice of a consultant — was conceding that it would take more detailed analysis, and longer time, to assemble the case for a genuine solution.
Councillor Alan Dick predicted that this might turn out to be the “toughest decision of the term.” He had already noted that “the credibility of this Council is on the line, both within the region and nationally” and argued “no business can externalize the cost of pollution.”
Well said Councillor Dick.
Mind you, we’re dealing here with the epic struggle of HBRC having to deal with a mere 3-4 farms in the case of the Taharua/Mohaka. At issue is whether their present land use, predominantly dairying, can be continued without further damaging the rivers.
Imagine how difficult Councillor Dick and his colleagues will find these land use choices when they have to deal with proposed water harvesting in Central Hawke’s Bay, where the entire economic case for damming the river will rest on substantial land use intensification — whether dairying or otherwise — affecting dozens of farms.
That’s the higher significance of making a decision — to regulate or not — in the Taharua/Mohaka catchment. And why Councillor Dick is dead right — the credibility of the Regional Council is indeed on the line.
P.S. I would further note that the issues complicating HBRC’s life were not surfaced by HBRC’s vaunted ‘stakeholder’ group on the Taharua/Mohaka. Instead, the issues were raised during an informal submissions process by determined citizens not at the stakeholder table. You see, to be defined as a ‘stakeholder’ by HBRC, one needs to be either: a) a farmer or other economic interest (irrigator, orchardist, Chamber of Commerce, etc); and/or b) compliant. More on HBRC ‘stakeholder’ groups to come.