I believe the HB Regional Council has persistently bungled its stewardship of the Bay’s water.

However, while not budging from that view, I want to acknowledge an excellent effort on the part of HBRC to engage the public around its current ‘work-in-progress’ planning regarding clean-up of the Taharua and Upper Mohaka Rivers.

This outreach has all the right elements …

1. A frontline stakeholders group is wrestling with the issues at hand in the catchment and seeking a way forward.

2. A broader group of interested parties has been directly contacted by an informative email that updated us on where this process stands, the basics of a proposed strategy, where to find pertinent information online, and where/how to respond. Someone took the trouble to identify and reach out to specific individuals in the wider community who might have a special interest in the matter at hand.

3. A comprehensive web page for the project (see here) makes available the draft strategy document, links to nearly twenty background and technical papers that have informed the process, online submission capability, and direct contact information for all the key staff players involved.

4. The project and strategy is outlined in a two-page spread in the HBRC’s current newsletter, Our Place, sent to all ratepayers.

It’s hard to imagine what more an interested citizen could ask for … insofar as the consultation process is concerned.

So, for that, the Regional Council earns an A+ score!

It just might be that someone at HBRC has discovered an old and wise political maxim: Don’t offend in style, when you can offend in substance. In other words: if you’re considering a policy someone might not like, don’t inflame the wound and intensify opposition by making the decision in a manner that ignores or derides their views (or even their opportunity to sound off).

That’s the A+ news.

The D- news is that the draft strategy, in the face of undisputed degradation of the two rivers, proposes to deal with the problem at a glacial pace. In other words, the Council is heading toward offending conservationists in substance.

Although better managed in its delivery, it’s still the same old story from this Regional Council. Spare no effort to placate economic interests (in this case a handful of dairy farmers in the upper catchment); and make as little effort, as slowly as possible, to redress the environmental harm they are causing. In this case, take fifteen years to restore healthy rivers, with ten years for landowners to make the necessary changes.

More from Baybuzz on the substance of the strategy will follow. Meantime, use the resources HBRC has provided to get informed. The consultation process closes August 22nd.

Tom Belford

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  1. I totally agree Tom, the 'glacial' pace of this draft strategy needs to be addressed. It took 15 years for Raglan to turn their harbour around from conception to completion. With 95% of the waterways in riparian plantings there has been significant restoration to the harbour. The planning has been done on the Taharua and the benchmark has been set by Raglan Harbour Care so it is now up to dairy farmers to get 95% of the plantings completed as soon as possible. Let's see their farm plans!

  2. It's all very well saying 15 years is too long, but the damage is done. Even if they stopped now it would take between 5 -10 years to get back to the clean water. The chemicals are only now begining to show up in the water.

    What is better, work with the farmers and get them to agree to improve the situation, or try imposing rules on them that they then resent and try and aviod resulting in confrontation. This would end up costing the council a lot more in policing the situation, and probable court cases.

    The farmers make money for the Bay and the country. I say good on the Council for working with them, far better and cheaper.

  3. "Get them to agree" Andrew?!

    Let me get this straight … a group of people pollute a supposedly protected ecosystem to the point of destroying it, and we need to "get them to agree" to change their practices?! And god forbid we upset them.

    Why not stop making and prosecuting rules for drink driving, medical malpractice, tax evasion, robbery or contractor fraud and just get the perpetrators to "agree" to change their ways. Politely of course … and with heaps of 'transition' time.

    Why the exception for farmers?

  4. I think you forget the money the farmers make for the region, also in maintaining the countryside.

    Imagine the loss in income to the bay and country, and the state of the land if farming became non viable. Of course they need to tidy up their act, but you can't impose it all overnight.

    What if parliament decided to recoup the Christchurch losses in one year.

    Of course prosecute wrong doers, that thought is just confusing the issue, trying to compare apples and pears.

    Incidentally I don't have any conection to farming, just some common sense

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