On Wednesday, the HB Regional Council decided under duress to release much of the independent review of its hearings process and management thereof, mainly in respect to handling of water allocation consents.

The key word here is “much” — reportedly the so-called Cowie Report includes specific appraisals of how individual Councillors on the Hearings Committee handled their responsibilities. More on that another time. BayBuzz has made an Official Information Act request for the full report, for the reasons given in our post of July 19. We do not regard today’s partial disclosure as satisfying the public accountability to which the Council’s consent process should be held.

Here is the “abridged” report released by HBRC. And here is the Council’s media release assuring us that everything’s fixed, not to worry.

What is most assuredly not fixed is the Regional Council’s Resource Management Plan, which is faulted in the Cowie Report as follows:

“Existing minimum flows, and particularly allocatable volume provisions in the RRMP need to be reviewed urgently. If this is not resolved by the time the consents granted start to expire in 2013, the council will look incompetent and will face very strong criticism. Reviewing these provisions is a substantial undertaking for the council, and it may face Environment Court appeals. This work is provided for in the LTCCP, which is essential.”

I’ll say! This is just one more example of a Council that has been asleep at the wheel, and is now trying desperately to catch up.

After referring to the fact that science work to provide a “starting point” for revised minimum flows and allocation volumes is now underway — only as a result of recent public pressure, it should be noted — the report continues:

“It is very important that the science regarding flow requirements be used as a key input to decision making, but they certainly should not be the sole input. Section 5 of the RMA requires a balance be struck between environmental considerations, and the social and economic needs of the community. This is a political judgment the council will need to make taking account of all relevant considerations, not just what the science inputs recommend.”

And there the report is getting to the nub of the matter — the politics of “balancing” various interests under the RMA. Undoubtedly, where or how the balance should be struck will be a campaign issue for Regional Council candidates.

Tom Belford

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4 Comments

  1. Actually, s5 of the RMA does not "require a balance be struck between environmental considerations, and the social and economic needs of the community" as such. Sustainable management holds that the integrity of the environment is a maintained and other wellbeings are provided where that is not compromised.

    RMA s5

    1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

    (2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while—

    (a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and

    (b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and

    (c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

  2. Exactly Quentin in a self sustaining manner.

    As a trout fisherman of 6 decades first in the UK and for the past 4 decades in NZ, I have seen streams you could not wade across decline to trickles with cattle standing in these or grazing where water used to be.

    Reginal Councils came into being 21 years ago under the RMA as the environment protectors in which we all work, live and play.

    It is abdication of managerial responsibility or incompetance, one or the other.

  3. The Hawkes Bay Regional Council (Governance) has shown its self to be grossly negligent and incomptent, one hopes that at the coming Local Government Elections that two things happen:

    – The people elect focused and competent representatives, not the current bunch of seat warmers.

    – The message of amalgamation as proposed by Lawrence Yule is supported.

  4. dean: i fail to see how amalgamating a DC which happily compromises itself with an RC which happily compromises itself is a supportable idea – unless you are happy to be doubly compromised… and have half the say you do now on any issue.

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