Fish & Game sets aside $60,000 at least for latest freshwater hearings

After spending more than $100,000 seeing plan change 7 through the Environment Court, Otago Fish & Game is reviewing how much money it will need to take part in the Otago Regional Council’s next major planning process.

A 10-week consultation period is under way for the regional council’s proposed regional policy statement (RPS).

The high-level guiding document will then likely go through a new freshwater planning process, introduced through changes to the Resource Management Act last year.

The new process involves a public hearing of submissions, conducted by a freshwater hearings panel.

Otago Fish & Game environmental officer Nigel Paragreen told the Otago Fish & Game Council this month it was important to be involved.

"Critically, the RPS will need to provide a regional interpretation of [the new national direction for managing freshwater, Te Mana o te Wai] and outline long-term visions for catchments in the region.

"These are likely to be critical in determining the direction of travel for the region’s environment in the next 30 years.

"It is important that Fish & Game participate in setting that direction."

The hearing for the regional council’s plan change 7 had recently finished its 10th week of hearings, and had already cost Fish & Game $110,777 to make its case.

Otago Fish & Game had set aside $60,000 for the upcoming regional policy statement process, but this amount needed to be reviewed.

The freshwater planning process was intended to be a streamlined approach compared with the way plans had been heard in the past, Mr Paragreen said.

But plan change 7 was also heard using a novel process, in that it was called in by the Minister for the Environment and directed straight to the Environment Court.

"Both processes are new experiences for Fish & Game in Otago, so we’re keeping an open mind and are planning to be flexible," he said.

The funding review was always expected, Mr Paragreen said.

A regional council spokesman said the council was not certain when hearings would be held for the regional policy statement.

At the end of the submission period under way until early September, the council was required to prepare a summary of the decisions requested, publicly notify the availability of that summary, and call for further submissions.

It was anticipated the period for making further submissions would occur in October, Mr Paragreen said.


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