Items of interest from this week’s meetings of the TRC’s two key committees, Consents & Regulatory, and Policy & Planning:
The two Committees generally meet every six weeks, on the same day. Each of the committees is made up of Councillors and external members, including three representatives on each that are nominated by Iwi.
Monitoring and enforcement assessed
An independent analysis has found Taranaki has a well-established, well-resourced and effective system for monitoring consent holders and enforcing compliance with consent conditions and Regional Plan provisions, the Consents & Regulatory Committee was told. The analysis was carried out at the request of regional councils and looked at their performance nationwide. Taranaki has long had a comprehensive monitoring and compliance system and it continues to be second to none, the Committee was told. It covers all sectors, with most attention on higher-risk activities, and is resourced on a user-pay basis with no call on ratepayer funds. The Council has fine-tuned its system to ensure it meets a recently developed national framework.
Mixed results in wetter year
Results of physical and chemical monitoring of waterway quality in 2017-2018 again reflected a wetter year, with generally higher-than-usual flows in most rivers making them turbid and pushing up bacteria and nutrient levels, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. Even so, 75% of the 60 relevant sampling results for nutrients were in the ‘A’ band of the Government’s national standards, 23% were in the B band and none fell below the national bottom line. Only 25% of the sites fully met the Government’s ‘swimmability’ standards but most of the sampling sites are too shallow, cold and/or small for recreational use. Long-term water quality trends are mixed but more recent trends (calculated for the past seven years) indicate gains are being made.
Tweak to Zero Carbon Bill urged
The Council has signalled its overall support for the Government’s Climate Change Responze (Zero Carbon Amendment Bill but has called for a second look at the target for biogenic methane (farm animal) emissions, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. In its submission on the Bill, the Council says the 2050 target of a reduction of 24% to 47% in these particular emissions is likely to be challenging, with significant economic and social costs of communities and regions. It says the Government should hold off setting a target until more work is done, and it should also look at a recent report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on agricultural emissions and the use of forests as compensatory carbon sinks. Given the need for New Zealand to also adapt to the effects of climate change, the Council also urges serious consideration of a recent Local Government NZ report calling for Wellington to resume supporting regional flood protection projects.
Biodiversity effort keeps expanding
The Council’s work with landowners to recognise and protect ecological jewels has expanded to 293 sites covering almost 123,400 hectares across the region, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. Of these, 240 are partly or fully privately owned and these, at 13,650 hectares, account for 20% of privately owned indigenous bush in Taranaki. Details of 17 new sites, known as Key Native Ecosystems (KNEs), were presented to the Committee today, taking the year’s total to 28 new KNEs. The Council works with KNE owners to prepare Biodiversity Plans, making them eligible for assistance from the Council and other agencies for fencing, predator control and revegetation. Many KNEs are also protected with QEII covenants or similar legal instruments. The programme is non-regulatory – there is no compulsion for land owners to take part.
Coastal Plan hearing likely late July
Submissions on the Proposed Coastal Plan for Taranaki are likely to be heard late in July, the Policy and Planning Committee was told. The hearing will almost complete the current review of the Plan, and up to 35 submitters are expected to present their cases verbally. The Hearing Committee will consist of two Councillors and an independent commissioner with tikanga Māori expertise. Iwi have been consulted over this appointment, which will be the Council’s first use of such an independent commissioner for a Plan hearing. The Proposed Plan will be adopted after any changes are made as a result of the submissions process, and will take effect late this year or early next year unless there are any appeals.