Mackenzie Basin RMA plans report released
The five government agencies with statutory environmental responsibilities in the Mackenzie Basin (Environment Canterbury, Waitaki and Mackenzie District Councils, the Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand) have welcomed an independent report investigating the way all Resource Management Act (RMA) plans that apply in the Basin deal with key issues.
Nadeine Dommisse (Environment Canterbury), Chair of the Mackenzie Basin Steering Committee that commissioned the Boffa Miskell report, said it was reassuring to learn from independent assessment that the agencies had a sound planning framework to build on. “There is much we’re doing right; now we have an opportunity to add strength and resilience,” she said.
“We gave this high priority because all the agencies recognise the importance of alignment in the planning framework managing a particularly sensitive environment. The Mackenzie Basin is managed by three different councils, using five different plans developed at different times and in different contexts.”
“This project is part of a wider programme that shows the agencies’ commitment to sharing information and demonstrating a transparent way of working together,” Ms Dommisse said.
What the report identified
The report is a review of the way current RMA plans deal with four key topics – biodiversity, outstanding natural landscapes, land use change and water quality.
“These topics are critical to managing change in the Mackenzie Basin,” Nadeine Dommisse said.
“The report identifies areas where the plans show significant alignment, and where they are not so well aligned or where there are gaps in the planning framework.”
The report was not designed as a detailed analysis of all the relevant planning provisions; nor does it consider how well the plans are implemented and enforced. “Rules can’t solve everything,” Ms Dommisse said.
“There are other initiatives in the Alignment Programme that address these things and we’ll be working together further on them.”
What does this mean for councils?
The report identifies some areas where there could be better alignment between Environment Canterbury planning documents and the Mackenzie District Plan.
These are largely the result of the detailed landscape assessment and planning provisions developed through Plan Change 13 to the Mackenzie District Plan.
Environment Canterbury will be assessing the report when it reviews the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement, and we will be working closely with district councils to see whether we can better support each other plans, Nadeine Dommisse said.
The part of the Waitaki District Plan that covers the Mackenzie Basin was developed over 10 years ago. Waitaki District Council Chief Executive Fergus Power said it doesn’t reflect more recent growth pressures.
We are currently reviewing the plan and will be inviting community feedback in July/August 2019,he said. We are also developing a master plan for Omarama and Otematata.
A new set of rules for the Waitaki side of the Mackenzie Basin will be available for community comment in early 2020.
The new provisions will take into account the findings of the report and will also take on board new and emerging national and regional policy changes, and the local opportunities provided by the Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO geopark proposal.
Mackenzie District Council Chief Executive Suzette van Aswegen said the Environment Court definition of “outstanding landscape” in the Mackenzie District part of the Basin (Plan Change 13) had introduced strict rules to protect the landscape and manage land use change.
We have also introduced stronger rules covering the clearance of indigenous vegetation in Proposed Plan Change 18; she said.
This means there are now few gaps for Mackenzie District to investigate in the topic areas covered by the report. Work is underway on reviewing the rest of the district plan.
Sharing information and supporting plan updates
The agencies will continue to share information and support the updating of RMA plans including the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan.
For example, Land Information New Zealand is leading a project to develop a common set of data and maps for the Mackenzie Basin.
“There are already many examples of the effective ways the agencies are working together,” Nadeine Dommisse concluded. “Boffa Miskell has now given us a new set of building blocks to work with and we look forward to doing so for the benefit of the Mackenzie Basin, its communities and environment.”
In 2017, the five government agencies with statutory environmental responsibilities in the Mackenzie Basin (Environment Canterbury, Waitaki and Mackenzie District Councils, the Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand) came together to form the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme.
The programme is the first of its kind in New Zealand and acknowledges the agencies’ kaitiakitanga (guardianship) role to protect the iconic landscape, together with its water quality and biodiversity.
In 2018, the agencies commissioned consultants HenleyHutchings to report on opportunities for better agency alignment.
One of their recommendations was to investigate the alignment of plans developed by Environment Canterbury and Mackenzie and Waitaki Districts under the Resource Management Act.