Items of interest from this week’s meetings of the Council’s two key committees, Consents & Regulatory, and Policy & Planning:
3D mapping coverage for Taranaki
The Council is the lead agency in a regional 3D mapping project that potentially will be of enormous benefit both environmentally and economically, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. An aerial laser survey began early in April to gather LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data that can be used to generate highly accurate 3D maps and models to aid all aspects of environmental and infrastructure management and planning. The $750,000 project is half-funded by the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by Land Information NZ, with the rest of the funding coming from the region’s four councils and the University of Auckland. The aerial survey will continue until July and the data will be available to agencies and the public by the end of the year.
Intensive winter grazing rules in limbo
Council officers are awaiting more guidance from the Government on requirements relating to intensive winter grazing, following the deferment of new regulations that were introduced as part of the Essential Freshwater package. The new regulations were widely criticised and the Government has now delayed their implementation until May 2022. In the meantime it wants regional councils and the agricultural sector to jointly develop an intensive winter grazing module to include in certified freshwater farm plans, and to increase the level of monitoring and reporting on the practice. The Policy & Planning Committee was told that the Ministry for the Environment was yet to provide more guidance and information on the revised approach to intensive winter grazing.
Slime levels low and stable
Levels of periphyton (slime) are generally low and stable at sites monitored by the Council, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. Results of 160 surveys at 20 sites in nine catchments across the region are analysed in the latest two-yearly periphyton monitoring report. Of these surveys, 92% found periphyton levels within Ministry for the Environment guidelines, compared with 93% in the previous two-year period. Of the sites surveyed, 10 had a median periphyton index score of ‘very good’, eight were ‘good’ and two were classed as ‘moderate’. None was classed as poor. Periphyton can occur as thick algae mats on the river bed or bank, or as long thin strands. It is classed as unacceptable when at least 30% of the bed is covered by strands and/or at least 60% of the bed is covered by thick mats.
Questions over fossil fuels
The Government will fill a legislative gap with its proposal to phase out the use of fossil fuels in industrial boilers and the like, but more detail is needed, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. The Government previously announced it is removing a Resource Management Act provision that stopped Councils considering greenhouse-gas (GHG) effects when assessing discharges to air. That leaves Councils with pre-existing rules and policies that are inadequate for now regulating GHG emissions, the Committee was told, because they were never intended to. So the Government is providing some direction with its new proposal to ban new coal-fired boilers at the end of this year and phase out existing ones by 2037, phase out most other industrial fossil-fuel processes, and require large industrial sites to plan how they will reduce GHG emissions. But the Committee was told the Government’s proposals lacked vital detail, particularly around the conditions required to win exemptions because of the lack of ‘feasible alternatives’, and around the status of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. Officers will prepare a submission on the Government proposals for the Council to consider at its next meeting.