On Wednesday, the HB Regional Council adopted a new seven point plan for cleaning up the Mohaka River and its tributary Taharua. By formal resolution, the Council:
- Recognises the Mohaka River and its tributaries as having outstanding values in terms of ecosystems, natural character, fisheries, public amenity and cultural significance, requiring integrated and sustainable management of the water resource.
- Supports an approach for dealing with the water quality issues in the Taharua and Mohaka catchments that incorporates an effects based regulatory framework along with an adaptive catchment management approach.
- Endorses a zero tolerance approach to consent non-compliance in the Taharua River Catchment.
- Instructs staff to clearly communicate Council’s position on the effects of land use intensification of the Taharua River Catchment to relevant industry organisations such as Federated Farmers and Fonterra, both at a local level and at a national level.
- Instructs staff to communicate with all landowners in the Taharua Catchment, the issues and management of the environmental effects of land use activities in the catchment.
- Instructs staff to establish a catchment stakeholder group for the Taharua and Mohaka rivers for the purpose of community engagement.
- Instructs staff to prepare a Taharua River Strategy which sets out the approach, key steps and timetable toward the development of an (ideally) agreed policy framework for inclusion in the regional plans, with the draft Strategy to be reported back to the November 2009 Environmental Management Committee meeting.
So the ball is officially in play. We’ll expect to see more specifics in November, including the actual changes proposed for the Regional Resource Management Plan.
As a number of Councillors noted (Remmerswaal, Kirton, Gilbertson), the Council’s embrace of a strategy that includes effects-based regulation is an approach that should be adopted as well for the Tukituki and other rivers in the region.
Said Iain Maxwell, regional manager of HB Fish and Game:
“Naturally the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we will be watching progress carefully to see when things are going to change. While we accept that these changes won’t occur immediately we are confident that the commitment of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is now there to see the necessary changes to the region’s Regional Resource Management Plan pushed through. Having an effects based regulatory regime provides the right tool for the toolbox for requiring changes without stifling the initiative and development of mitigation options for land users in the catchment. We are supporting this approach with the knowledge that the WCO (Water Conservation Order) values now have the highest priority and that land can still be farmed in the catchment as long as they don’t compromise those values.”
Kudos owed to Iain and HB Councillor Liz Remmerswaal for their leadership on this issue. And to Kathy Webb for a galvanising article in the DomPost.