Mackenzie Basin Community Forum a Success

Community leaders from throughout the Mackenzie Basin today attended a community forum in Twizel to learn how the five agencies with statutory responsibilities in the region had become more aligned in protecting the iconic landscape.

The five agencies are the Mackenzie District Council, the Waitaki District Council, the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and Environment Canterbury. Each has responsibility for managing land use, the landscape, water quality and quantity, vegetation clearance, biosecurity and biodiversity.

They formed the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme in 2017, in response to the Mackenzie Basin – Opportunities for Agency Alignment report, completed by Dr Hugh Logan and John Hutchings. After presenting the report to the Mackenzie community a year ago, the chief executives of each agency made a joint commitment to return to the community with an update on progress in one year’s time.

Working closely together

Environment Canterbury Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said the five agencies had immediately taken on board the report’s 25 recommendations. “We have already sharpened our internal processes, moved to coordinate planning and consenting requirements, and provided more resources and support.

“We’re also working on several large-scale initiatives. For example, our tourism strategy will ensure that we manage tourism pressure and investment. The high country work programme will deliver on Ministerial priorities in these important areas. And we have just launched a one-stop-shop website with all the information and updates the community will be looking for,” Mr Bayfield said.

“We’re now working more closely with landholders and the community to protect the land, the water and the values we all care about,” he said. “There are several things we want to achieve in 2019 and we’d like to keep hearing from the community about how we’re going with those and what other ideas they might have.”

Bill Bayfield talking to five agencies

Making progress

Land Information New Zealand Chief Executive Lisa Barrett said the five agencies had made considerable progress over the past year.

“I hope everyone will see from today’s event just how much has progressed since the release of the 2018 report. At LINZ we’ve made fundamental changes to the way we work with these other agencies to deliver better outcomes for the Mackenzie Basin.

“We’re also starting to deliver on the key piece of work to create a set of maps and data for the Basin. This single source of information will support agencies to work more effectively and provide better information to help manage this critically important landscape.”

Protecting ecosystems

Department of Conservation Director-General Lou Sanson said DOC was committed to working in partnership with others to protect the rare and globally significant dryland ecosystems in the Mackenzie.

“We are working with our Treaty partners Ngāi Tahu, and also collaboratively with our agency partners, the Mackenzie Country Trust and the community, to design and deliver a Dryland Heritage Area that safeguards the unique dryland landscapes and their native plants and animals, as well as the area’s cultural and historic heritage.”

Waitaki District Council Chief Executive Fergus Power said the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme “fitted very well” with the core principles underlying the proposed Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark in the Waitaki district.

“UNESCO Global Geoparks are expected to take a holistic approach to sustainable economic development within such areas, and the agency alignment programme exemplifies the necessary inter-agency cooperation needed for generating better environmental and community outcomes, with better service delivery through the partnership being an exemplar of collaboration and partnership,” he said.

Mackenzie District Council Chief Executive Suzette van Aswegen said she was pleased with progress made over the last year. “It was important to get runs on the board and the partnership approach is already showing dividends with the achievements of the Mackenzie Waitaki Basin Responsible Working Group. It was successful in obtaining grant funding for a tourism-related project in the Waitaki and Mackenzie districts. The project will be completed by Easter,” she said.

Mackenzie Country Trust Chair Julia Mackenzie said the Trust wants to work closely with the five agencies and the community. “The proposed Mackenzie Dryland Heritage Area provides an opportunity for us to work collaboratively to protect and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the Basin,” she said.

Further information about the Mackenzie Basin Alignment Programme is now available at www.mackenziebasin.govt.nz, which includes a contact form.