ORC praised for prompt notification of statement

The speediness of Otago’s regional council in getting its regional policy statement out for public consultation has earned it the chief freshwater commissioner’s praise.

Prof Peter Skelton spoke of his worry the majority of councils aimed to meet the deadline but only just in time.

His concern was shared yesterday at this year’s Environmental Defence Society conference in Christchurch, during a presentation about the freshwater planning process.

It has been just over a year since the Resource Management Amendment Act of 2020 was passed, which included the establishment of a new process when dealing with freshwater plans and policy statements.

Regional councils and unitary authorities need to adhere to the process when preparing, changing or varying regional policy statements or plans that either relate to freshwater or give effect to any national policy statement for freshwater management.

The Otago Regional Council was one of only two to have notified on plans or statements.

Prof Skelton had travelled the length of the country talking to regional councils about the process. If the plan or policy is intended to give effect to the national policy statement, it must be publicly notified no later than the end of 2024.

“I’m pretty confident that they can achieve that date. What worries me is a number of them are not planning to do it before that date. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to understand what that might mean for the chief freshwater commissioner and his fellow commissioners in 2025.”

He had been encouraging the 17 regional councils to complete public notification as soon as possible.

Two had done so already, including the Otago Regional Council with its policy statement.

“That is going to provide us with some interesting concepts.”

His office would receive the statement in coming months and a hearing would be held next year.

The other council which had also made progress was the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

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