RMA – A Review and Preview

Posted By HBFA | September 18, 2023

The resource management space, like so many other things, has been dominated by cyclone related work over the last 6 months. We have endeavoured to provide clarity for you around regulatory requirements related to the cyclone, and worked really hard to get an Order in Council through Central Government that allowed the burning of intertwined, inseparable mixed waste piles that were left behind after the cyclone. Although it took some time, we did achieve that, and burning of such piles can occur until 1 November this year (2023).  Anything further that the we can do to assist you in your cyclone recovery in the regulation/resource management space, please reach out and let us know and we will do our best to assist. We recognise it is a very long road to recovery and providing technical expertise in the planning/regulation space is one thing we can do to help.

Last year, we noted that work had recently commenced on the Kotahi Plan Change.  This whole of region plan change has been paused because of the cyclone, and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is now reviewing how it goes about doing this work. The timeframe within which a new freshwater plan must been notified has been pushed out until December 2027 (because of resourcing challenges created by the cyclone), but it is expected that later this year/early next year the council explain how they are planning to undertake that work, and, of particular interest, how stakeholders like the Association can be involved in that process.

Decisions on the TANK Plan Change were notified on 9 September 2022.  The decision was ok – it is almost impossible for decision makers to make a decision that satisfies everyone given the multiple views they are seeking to balance.  Parts of the decision aren’t particularly workable from a fruitgrowers and wider horticulture perspective, and those points are the subject of an appeal by HortNZ.  Fifteen other appeals were lodged (16 in total).  A timetable for mediation is being worked on, and it is expected to start in the next couple of months. Any matters that cannot be resolved at mediation will proceed to an Environment Court hearing.

Notwithstanding that the TANK decision remains subject to appeals, all of the new rules had legal effect from the time the plan was notified (May 2020).  This means that the regional council is applying the new test of ‘actual and reasonable’ water use when assessing replacement water permits. Water use between 2010 and 2020 will be looked at, and if your water use is very low, or you didn’t take water at all, your will need to provide the regional council with information/evidence to explain why water was not used.  This is a change in approach, but one that is directed by the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and occurring across the country in areas where water resources are considered to be over-allocated. The council needs to reduce the volume of water allocated as current levels are not sustainable, and they are seeking to do this in the first instance by reducing allocations of water that has not been well utilised over the last decade or so.

A National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity came into force at the start of August (2023).  This had been in development for many years. It relates to indigenous biodiversity in the terrestrial environment and seeks to maintain (or improve) current levels of indigenous biodiversity. If they haven’t already, district/city councils have to identify areas of significant indigenous vegetation or habitat of indigenous fauna on all land within boundaries.  Development within those significant natural areas is restricted. Restoration is also promoted as is increasing indigenous vegetation cover.

We continue to wait for a decision from the Environment Court on the proposed Water Conservation Order (WCO) for the Ngaruroro River.

If you have questions about planning or council processes, please get in touch– 027 3225595 or Charlotte.Drury@hortnz.co.nz

Dr Charlotte Drury


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