The HB Regional Council was recently rated on two report cards, and issued one of its own.
Good news all around.
The first report involves evaluation by the Ministry of Environment of the processing of consents by all regional councils under the Resource Management Act (RMA).
HBRC processed to completion 671 consents in 2007/08, 13% of which were publicly notified. Overall, 96% of applications were processed within prescribed timeframes, the best result for all councils within Hawke’s Bay, earning a commendation letter from the Minister for the Environment.
Now, if we only agreed with all those smoothly processed consents!
A second report card dealt with the Council’s consistency and accuracy in evaluating dairy farm effluent compliance. Fonterra has complained of substantial inconsistency in grading and reporting rates of compliance by councils around the country. An audit process was organised to peer review compliance reports from each council.
HBRC has issued 80 consents for 115 dairy farming blocs in the region. Ten dairy effluent compliance reports were randomly selected and audited from HBRC, with auditors agreeing with HBRC grading in each case. HBRC was the only council audited that achieved this level of agreement between its compliance officers and the auditors. Kudos again.
This should put HBRC on a strong footing when it becomes necessary to challenge dairy farmers who do not appear to be complying with effluent consents.
Speaking of compliance, the Regional Council also reported recently on the filing of water use information by landowners with water take consents for irrigation purposes. HBRC has issued 600 consents for water takes, involving some 850 water meters.
The Council has been attempting to improve reporting compliance, since bad (or no) data leads to unsatisfactory analysis for consent requests, environmental reporting, and hydrological analysis. In the 2008/09 irrigation season, HBRC had to issue 55 abatement notices after initial requests and cajoling did not produce the required water use data. Only two of these instances escalated into infringement notices for continued non-reporting.
This heightened attention to reporting compliance has yielded the highest quality water use data the Council has collected for an irrigation season.
And none too soon from an environmental perspective.