Open wetland forum Proposal to alleviate suspicion of bureaucrats

A forum to assist decision-making concerning wetlands might go some way to alleviate the "high degree of suspicion" farmers have about bureaucratic processes, Otago Fish and Game Council environmental officer Peter Wilson says.

He was speaking at day two of a three-day Otago Regional Council hearing into proposed water plan changes regarding wetlands.

Plan change 2 aimed to simplify regulations concerning wetlands and ensure they were mapped accurately.

The consultation draft, released in June 2010, extended provision for regionally significant wetlands, developing a separate non-regulatory wetland inventory and putting significant wetlands on one list in the plan.

As part of his submission to councillors Duncan Butcher, David Shepherd and Michael Deaker, Mr Wilson suggested a forum could assist the decision-making process concerning non-complying rules for drainage and drain maintenance around wetlands.

Fish and Game had concerns the new rules could result in farmers acting illegally because of a "high degree of suspicion" that contacting council about activities concerning wetlands and rivers resulted in the imposition of high fees or tended to draw negative responses.

The forum would be made up of representatives from the ORC, Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, Federated Farmers and Kai Tahu.

"Farmers would have a face-to-face contact and know that it's not just a bunch of bureaucrats saying 'No'," he said.

A similar forum operated in the Bay of Plenty and had "taken a lot of heat out of the wetland argument".

Mr Deaker said he understood "what [the forum] would do" but questioned "what would it achieve".

Mr Wilson said the forum would support landowners with land-use issues, and help them understand the values different organisations were trying to protect.

The hearing continues in Dunedin today.



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