Water plan change delay 'must result in stronger rules'

Gretchen Robertson
Gretchen Robertson
A three-year delay to a major Otago water quality plan change had better bring stronger regulations with it, Otago regional councillors say.

Yesterday the council voted to change the nature and implementation of plan change 6A, which was adopted in 2014.

Through the plan change, a compliance deadline was due to come into effect in April next year regarding rural discharges.

However, ''significant problems'' with the plan had been identified by council staff.

One issue was an uncertainty over the rules, which meant the council expected a large number of discharge consent applications.

This would undermine the effectiveness of a full review of the council's water plan and ''prevent the effective management of the cumulative effect of discharges on water quality'', staff said.

The council voted yesterday to instead have two plan changes, to be notified in October this year and March next year respectively.

The first relates to the change in timing and implementation.

The second will be a revised plan change which fixes gaps in the original plan, including its discharge rule framework, stock effluent management and stock access to water bodies, among several others.

This was expected to come into effect in April 2023 and would replace the deadline of April next year.

To complicate things further the Government is expected to tighten rules within the next few months on national water standards, which could affect the plan changes.

Council acting regulatory manager Peter Winder said the effects of the delay would be minimal and the council could expect no worse environmental outcomes for that period.

''One thing we can be absolutely certain about is we will move far faster than this council has worked in the past.''

Cr Gretchen Robertson said the community needed to be assured the change was not simply an extension of rules, but a strengthening of them.

Committee Ngai Tahu representative Edward Ellison said members of his iwi were concerned there would be further extensions - ''they're really anxious, to be honest,'' he said.

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