Friday, December 8, 2023

Iwi appeasement upsets others

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A legal battle is shaping up over the future direction of the Healthy Rivers plan following Waikato Regional Council’s decision to pull part of the catchment from the plan until iwi issues are dealt with.
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Despite the Hauraki region not being included in the Healthy Rivers plan, Hauraki iwi were claiming rohe (ancestral land) running through north Waikato to the river’s mouth near Tuakau, was captured by the plan.

They had threatened legal action against the council for a lack of consultation.

The council then opted to withdraw the affected 120,000ha, amounting to about 11% of the plan’s catchment area, from the plan.

But this decision has producer groups calling for the entire plan to be withdrawn until iwi and the council reached agreement.

The decision had particular impact upon produce growers at Pukekohe, prompting Horticulture New Zealand to start filing in the High Court for a judicial review of the plan process.

Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman confirmed the group was in the final stages of filing for a judicial review before Christmas.

“But we are also talking to the council and our hope is the council will see sense on this.”

Chapman said it would become clearer in coming days whether any other industry groups including Beef + Lamb NZ would join the action.

It was not a practical solution to withdraw part of the plan while the remaining area continued through the submission process.

“Our judicial review request essentially seeks to have the entire plan withdrawn from the process until this is resolved.

“It is not practical to divide areas within the plan up during the submission process.

“You cannot treat a downstream part separate from the rest of the catchment. Activity in one part affects the other.”

Council chief executive Vaughn Payne said if the council had not withdrawn the disputed area the issue would have been taken to court by iwi.

“By doing this, court action has been withdrawn, allowing us to consult. Once resolved, this part of the plan will be re-submitted later next year.”

Payne said iwi had lodged legal proceedings earlier this year but it was too late for the council to stop the plan notification process.

Two questions would be raised by the iwi in consultation with the council.

“The first is, does the plan protect the environment? The proof they have of that is that other iwi support it.

“The second is does it affect iwi development opportunities in their rohe? The opportunities would not be any more than any of the other iwi. I cannot see anything that is irreconcilable. It is just a matter of giving them time to understand the plan.”

He did not expect the re-submitted portion of the plan would be different from the remainder.

“We are only talking one tenth of the land area. Legally, we still have to give effect to the vision and strategy required which is to make the rivers swimmable and fishable along their entire length over 80 years.

He questioned how successful efforts to have a judicial review would be.

“We have far exceeded our requirements on consultation and have handed the pen over to the community to have input to this plan. Our role has only been to facilitate the process.”

Federated Farmers Waikato vice president Andrew McGiven said the latest development was disappointing.

“We need to take a breath here and step back until the situation is sorted out and there is more clarity. It is a mess quite frankly.”

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