Minister still considering intervention in ORC plan

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Environment Minister Penny Simmonds is weighing up whether to wade into the Otago Regional Council’s freshwater affairs.

Ms Simmonds has conceded the Otago council is a "special case" among New Zealand’s regional councils as the National-led coalition government’s Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms shake up the sector.

The council voted 8-4 last month not to take her recommendation to delay notification of its land and water plan, five years in the making, and due to be notified in about 16 weeks.

Regional councils around the country had been told the deadline for their plans would now be December 31, 2027, as RMA reforms took hold.

Central to the issue locally was the planned rewriting of the national policy statement for freshwater management (NPSFM).

Penny Simmonds. Photo: Gregor Richardson/file
Penny Simmonds. Photo: Gregor Richardson/file
The council’s deadline, too, was different from other regional councils after a series of interventions by Ms Simmonds’s Labour predecessor, former environment minister David Parker.

Ms Simmonds said this week neither she nor Ministry for the Environment staff had provided the council with further information about forthcoming changes to the NPSFM, or about how the council’s nearly completed land and water plan could be affected.

There had been no further information provided to the council about changing the notification date for the council’s plan either.

"Not at this stage as advice is still being prepared," Ms Simmonds said.

"It [Otago] is a special case as it has a ministerial directive.

"It is currently being considered."

When asked whether she would rescind Mr Parker’s ministerial direction, she said she was still taking advice on the matter.

The ORC is expected to revisit the issue later this month.

A report to councillors last month said council staff were reviewing the draft land and water plan to determine which parts might be affected by a change to the NPSFM.

Council chief executive Richard Saunders said the report would outline the risks of the options in front of councillors.

"Should there be further information received from ministry officials it will be incorporated into the report as appropriate," he said.

"We can not respond to further questions until councillors have had the opportunity to discuss the report."