Proposed water policy attacked as bureaucratic

Oamaru man Graeme Simpson with the bracelet from his last hospital visit which he carries in his...
Oamaru man Graeme Simpson with the bracelet from his last hospital visit which he carries in his wallet just in case. Photo by Sally Rae.
A proposed Government water policy could be costly to implement, disruptive and too bureaucratic to be useful, Otago Regional Council's chief executive Graeme Martin says.

The Government's National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management aims to help improve freshwater quality and manage increasing demand by providing guidance to local government, which is responsible for freshwater management.

Over time, councils would be required to incorporate the policy into their regional policy statements and district plans.

Mr Martin told the full council yesterday that, while the objectives were community spirited, operationally safe and an endorsement of where Otago had been heading, the statement contained restrictive aspects that were unlikely to add value to the region's water management.

"Worse, many of the policy elements will be costly to implement and comply with, threaten to be disruptive to community relationships, and some will be antagonistic toward established and accepted community values in Otago."

He was concerned the national policy statement was "far too bureaucratic" to be useful and might significantly disrupt the operation of the Resource Management Act in Otago.

"It will certainly require council to engage more planning staff and take seven to 10 years to be able to implement."

Implications were also huge for the council's next long-term council community plan, as those costs would need to be factored into its considerations, he said.

While he had sympathy for the policy's aims, there had to be a better way to deal with freshwater management than through the proposals outlined in the statement, Mr Martin said.

Cr Louise Croot said she was concerned at the overly bureaucratic nature of the statement and the possibility of costs "ballooning out of control".

Chairman Stephen Cairns said the statement would be a significant imposition on the region's territorial authorities, as well.

Cr Gretchen Robertson said, looking on the positive side, Otago was in a relatively good position, given many of the statements were already in its water plan.

The council delayed confirming its submission on the proposed national environmental standard on ecological flows and water levels so it could consider it in light of the statement.

A board of inquiry had been formed to consider the statement and would establish a process for receiving public submissions, the Ministry for Environment said.

 

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