Gisborne Herald - Nine appeals against Gisborne District Council’s freshwater plan

SIX major national organisations and three based in Gisborne have lodged appeals in the Environment Court against the Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan. Gisborne District Council adopted the plan in August, the first in the country under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011, to guide the management of freshwater while recognising social and economic drivers.

GDC director of transformation and relationships Keita Kohere said they were assessing the appeals to see how they related to one another and what implications they had for the plan and for freshwater management across Gisborne.

“Many of the appeal points focus on local issues, which is a great reflection of the value of collaboration and the commitment that every stakeholder brought to the table. We are pleased with the process so far and we will seek to resolve as many of the issues as possible through mediation with each of the appellants.”

A presentation to the environmental planning and regulations committee this week outlined the grounds of appeal for the nine appellants. These included balancing water for biodiversity and crops during shortages, quantity and quality issues for farmers, water takes for firefighting training, and the Waipaoa Catchment Plan.

The freshwater plan has been in the making since 2008. The process involved collaborative discussion groups, extensive consultation, submissions and four hearings last year on separate issues. Hearing commissioners released a final version of the plan in August, which was then adopted by the council before a one-month appeals process began.

Who has appealed

Six national organisations:

  • Horticulture New Zealand

  • The Director-General of Conservation

  • Federated Farmers of New Zealand

  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand

  • Eastern Fish and Game Council

  • The Minister of Defence

Three Gisborne-based entities:

  • Eastland Wood Council

  • Mangatu Blocks Incorporated

  • Te Whanau a Kai Trust

Environmental and science manager Lois Easton told the committee there had been concerns the Gisborne plan, the first in the country, would be a battleground for national issues. In a Ministry for the Environment review on the council’s freshwater management, published in August, council staff expressed concern the plan would become a “costly and time-consuming legal battleground” for national sector groups trying to establish national precedents.

When the Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management took effect in 2011, Gisborne was one of only two regions that did not have a specific freshwater plan. The council was subsequently the first in the country to adopt a plan under the new NPS guidelines. Sector groups consulted in that review indicated they would put full resources into the Gisborne plan legal challenges.

Ms Easton told the environmental planning and regulations committee that while there had been concerns, and many of the appeals were from national organisations, the appeals were very much about the Gisborne plan. While it looked like a long list, there were a lot of common things.

The appeals have closed but people still have until October 20 to become parties to the appeals. Mediation will then take place. Ms Kohere said their intention was to minimise the costs through pre-hearing mediation.

“We will aim to facilitate as much of the mediation process as possible, with legal guidance sought where required.”

Where agreements were reached the plan would be changed, while issues they could not reach agreement on would go to an Environment Court hearing.

“Only when agreements can’t be reached will appeals be referred to the Environment Court,” Ms Kohere said.

Committee chairwoman Pat Seymour said the process could take up to a year.

What was appealed

Department of Conservation

  • Policy and Objective links to impacts on coastal waters.
  • Biodiversity offsets for wetlands.
  • Priority for water during water shortage.
  • Impact of bores on wetlands.

Eastern Fish and Game

  • Survival water.
  • Trout and fish passage.
  • Game bird shooting structures.
  • Cropping setbacks.

Te Whanau a Kai

Provisions throughout the plan impacting on customary traditions and cultural interests, inconsistency with the Treaty of Waitangi.

Mangatu Blocks and Wi Pere Trust

  • Definition of intensive stock grazing including sheep and goat dairy.
  • Scope of farm environment plans.
  • Waipaoa Catchment Plan water quality limits and targets for sediment, dissolved inorganic nitrogen, dissolved reactive phosphate, temperature.

Eastland Wood Council

  • Inclusion of Schedule 7 (protected watercourses.)
  • Cable hauling across streams.
  • Waipaoa Catchment Plan, forestry non-regulatory project.

Federated Farmers

  • Water quantity policies — renewals.
  • Stock drinking water rule.
  • Definitions — feed crop, feed lot, feed pad.
  • Farm environment plan certification and implementation requirements.
  • Scope of Farm Environment Plan.

Fire and Emergency NZ

Water takes and discharges from firefighting training.

Ministry of Defence

Water takes for firefighting and defence training.

Horticulture New Zealand

  • A range of definitions related to intensive farming and water allocation.
  • Objective 8 and policies around research and monitoring provisions relating to cost — who pays.
  • Policies and rules around over-allocation, water transfers and survival water.
  • Policies around water quality limits discharges and restrictions.
  • Priority for water during water shortage.
  • Rules around field tile drains, bores and water takes.
  • Farm environment plan requirements and provisions.
  • Summary tables in the Waipaoa Catchment Plan.