Council makes 'landmark decision'

Rules are being introduced to reduce the amount of fertiliser run-off going into Lake Rotorua. Photo: Google Maps.

New land use rules to limit the amount of nitrogen entering the Lake Rotorua from rural land use will be notified on August 15.

Known as Plan Change 10, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council voted to accept a report and recommendation from the independent hearing panel relating to Plan Change 10 on Wednesday.

Regional environment committee chair, Paula Thompson says the Council’s decision to accept the independent commissioners’ recommendations and formally notify the rules is a “landmark” decision for the council.

“This is not a decision that has been made lightly,” says Paula. “Councillors have been required to maintain an open mind to the potential outcomes, and this decision has been made on the basis of the evidence and submissions heard and reported on by the independent panel, as required by the statutory process.”

A panel of independent commissioners - experts in their relevant fields of environmental policy and freshwater ecology - heard submissions from more than 50 individuals, groups and organisations over 15 days between March and May this year.

The independent hearing panel recommended some additional changes to Plan Change 10 in five key areas – a simplified approach for small lifestyle blocks, enabling the potential development of Te Ture Whenua Maori land, a change in nitrogen allowance for non-benchmarked properties and in the 5ha lot threshold, and to clarify the reference file methodology.

The rules will now be notified on August 15, with submitters having 30 working days following the receipt of the notification of the decision, to lodge any appeal with the Environment Court.

 “The independent panel has been thorough in their considerations and assessment – they had a big job to do and they have done an important job for Lake Rotorua,” says Paula.

“Our environment won’t wait. We are all responsible for ensuring Lake Rotorua is in a healthier state to hand down to future generations, and today’s decision will help us all achieve that.” 

In providing his support for Plan Change 10, BOPRC Okurei Councillor, Arapeta Tahana says there are still challenges to overcome, but there is no doubt that adopting Plan Change 10 is the right thing to do for Lake Rotorua and future generations.

“I have made this decision with the knowledge and upbringing that I have as a Māori, and from being brought up by the lake. Interacting with water has always been part of my life and it is a place of fun, prayer and healing. I want it to continue to have this place for ourselves, and our future generations, says Arapeta.

 “Without any reservations, I absolutely support the recommendations – and accept them. I hope that we can all continue to work together, regardless of the challenges, to see this through.”

Rotorua councillor Lyall Thurston acknowledged the rural community’s “dignity and professionalism” demonstrated throughout the plan change process, as well as the efforts and contribution of previous BOPRC councillors.

“This is a process that has been underway for many years and in that time, I have observed a thorough scientific process, with considerable economic research, extensive consultation and public engagement,’ says Lyall.

“This is a critically important issue – not just for Rotorua, but for the whole of New Zealand – and Plan Change 10 will help us reduce nitrogen from entering Lake Rotorua, and achieve the environmental outcomes that we are seeking.

 “We encourage land owners to talk to our land management team about what the Plan Change 10 developments mean for them.

“We are aware that some landowners and farmers are ready and want to move forward through this process, and we have waived the cost for resource consent applications until September 30. Our Advice and Support Service is also available to assist landowners developing a Nitrogen Management Plan if required. We are genuinely here to help landowners move forward.”

The rules are just one part of the solution to meet water quality standards set by the local community, with the level of nitrogen entering the lake needing to reduce by 320 tonnes by 2032. One hundred and forty (140) tonnes will come from Plan Change 10; 100 tonnes will come from voluntary land use change, 30 tonnes from voluntary gorse conversion, and 50 tonnes resulting from the implementation of engineering initiatives.

The Plan Change 10 rules have been in development for three years – a process which has included more than two years of public engagement and submissions.

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