Items of interest from this week’s meetings of the Council’s two key committees, Consents & Regulatory, and Policy & Planning:
Getting with the farm plan
Council officers broadly support the Government’s approach to its proposed new Freshwater Farm Plans under the Essential Freshwater Reforms, as set out in a discussion document circulated by the Ministry for the Environment. Officers found only minor issues and concerns of a technical nature when they analysed the document, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. In particular, the Council will seek assurances that the new regime will be adaptable enough to incorporate or accommodate farm plans that have already been established under programmes run by local bodies or sector groups. The Council supports a transitional approach to the new arrangements. Council officers also note that regional councils would be responsible for enforcement, which would be implemented in line with the TRC’s enforcement policy, with education as the first step.
Could be a better angle
The Government is revising its ‘low slope map’ that sets out which land would be captured under its proposed new stock exclusion regulations, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. The methodology behind the initial map resulted in it covering parcels of land not intended to be captured by the regulations. So the Government has switched to an advanced mapping methodology called ‘local terrain averaging’ that analyses land in sections measuring 15m by 15m. This has reduced the area captured by the regulations to 5.2m hectares from the original 8.2m hectares. While Council officers support the change of methodology, they have not thoroughly tested the result so its integrity cannot yet be judged.
Ngāti Maru settlement legislation welcomed
New legislation to implement the Ngāti Maru Treaty of Waitangi settlement includes provisions for an agreement between the iwi and the Council to work alongside other tangata whenua on the Waitara Rivers Committee, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. The Waitara Rivers Committee will supervise the spending of Waitara lease funds for improvements to the catchment, as stipulated in the Waitara Lands Act 2018. Ngāti Maru are the last of the eight Taranaki iwi to settle Treaty claims, and the legislation was introduced to Parliament in July. Submissions closed on 18 August, with the Council expressing support for the legislation and welcoming the prospect of Ngāti Maru playing a greater role in TRC processes.
Improvements suggested for maritime emissions rules
The Council supports draft national regulations seeking to bring New Zealand into line with an international treaty on reducing harmful emissions from ships. The Policy & Planning Committee discussed a submission to the Government offering TRC’s perspectives based on its scientific expertise and experience as regulator, and as the 100% owner of Port Taranaki Ltd. The Council’s submission finds no fundamental areas for concern about the new regulations but identifies practical issues that may arise in their implementation, and raise some questions about enforcement. It also says that continuing engagement with regional councils and port companies will be important. And it expresses concern that the draft regulations make no reference to cultural impacts or recognition of the cultural and spiritual significance of the marine environment. It says cultural impact assessments have proven invaluable when the Council takes Environment Court action over environmental incidents, and urges Maritime NZ to co-develop protocols with iwi authorities.