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.
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.