This months RMA update focuses on two topics – the TANK Plan Change, and also the governments announcements and consultation about He Waka Ika Noa.
As mentioned in last months update the hearing panel issued its decision on the TANK Plan Change at the end of September. At 225 pages long the decision report took a while to get through, but we have now read and digested it. From a horticulture perspective there were a few wins – the key one being that the hearing panel has held the interim groundwater limit for the Heretaunga Plains Water Quantity Unit at 90 million m3/yr. Although this will still require some reductions in allocation, a number of iwi submitters were arguing for a reduction to 70 million m3/yr, which would have necessitated significant reductions in allocation, so the panels decision is a good result.
In terms of what the council will consider when applying to replace existing water permits, we were not successful in our argument to have reference to ‘actual’ deleted – we were seeking this because of concerns about lack of water meter data in some cases, and in other cases the accuracy of data that was available. This means that when applications for replacement water permits are made, the council will be looking at actual water use over the 2010-2020 year period. This ten year period has changed – in the notified plan change it was 2017. Changing it to 2020 means that it now includes two very dry water years (2012/13 and 2019/20), so this should mean that the actual water use of some growers is higher than it would have been otherwise so this is another win. However, growers who have never used their full allocation remain likely to face reductions – there are some provisions that allow periods of redevelopment to be taken into account, however there are a few tests that need to be met. Ultimately the council does need to reduce the existing level of allocation, and they will try to do that by reducing the allocation of water permit holders who haven’t used their full allocations for a number of years.
In terms of land use change, the framework has changed quite a lot. Arguably it is simpler, although we believe there are some parts of it that may need to be clarified further. The key thing to be aware of is if you are changing land use on 5ha+ of horticultural land, then you may require a resource consent from the regional council. Usual crop rotations are not considered to be land use change (this is something we succeeded in having recognised which is sensible).
The process from here is that anyone who lodged a submission on the plan change can lodge an appeal on the decision with the Environment Court. This has to be done by October 26 2022. We (Horticulture NZ) are considering this. Anyone wanting to read the decision themselves can access it here on the HBRC website: TANK Decision | Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (hbrc.govt.nz)
He Waka Eka Noa
Many of you will have seen media in relation to the governments recent announcements about He Waka Eka Noa – the government’s plans to price agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Horticulture NZ is wanting to hear your views about the governments recommendations and are holding Zoom meetings on Monday 31 October 12:00 – 1:00 pm, and Thursday 10 November 12:00 – 1:00 pm that any grower is welcome to join. Links to the meetings will be released in the weekly HortNZ newsletter. More information is available on the HortNZ website here: He Waka Eke Noa | Horticulture New Zealand — Ahumāra Kai Aotearoa (hortnz.co.nz)
Next month I will finally be able to advise you all of the Environment Court’s decision on the Water Conservation Order for the Ngaruroro River – the decision is going to be released by October 25 and has been over 18 months in the making! Until then, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any RMA questions, and I hope that we might see some more sunshine than we have over the last month!
As always, if you have any RMA questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly via email at Charlotte.Drury@hortnz.co.nz or on 027 3225595.
Dr Charlotte Drury,
View Consult, Consultant Planner on behalf of Horticulture New Zealand