Fish & Game Questions Horizons Regional Council's Commitment To The Environment

  • 8/10/2015

Fish & Game is calling for a formal, independent review of Horizons Regional Council after media reports the council is allowing farmers to dodge environmental plans for cleaning up the region’s waterways, including the Manawatu River.

mooooo 6097552321 oThe ground breaking One Plan is designed to manage natural resources throughout the Whanganui and Manawatu regions. In particular, it aims to put pastoral agriculture onto an environmentally sustainable footing by tackling pollution, improving water quality and restoring environmental diversity while remaining profitable.

After years of argument and legal battles, Horizons voted to implement the plan in December last year, but it has now become apparent that the regional council is instead helping farmers get around the One Plan’s tough new rules to cut down on dirty dairying. Horizons is reported as saying that tighter controls on nitrate leaching are now too hard, and it is giving farmers 20 year consents that evidently allow them to pollute more.

Fish & Game New Zealand chief executive Bryce Johnson is disappointed by the council’s actions.

“Allowing river pollution to continue in defiance of the council’s own plan just beggars belief,” Mr Johnson said.

“Fish & Game supported the original One Plan all the way to the High Court, winning at every stage. That resulted in the One Plan being formally adopted by the regional council. Now Horizons thinks it can defy the courts and backtrack on its promises and obligations its own plan places on it.

“What Horizons appears to be doing now is grand parenting the right to pollute – something that was rejected by the courts,” Mr Johnson said.

Fish & Game says it is now considering the options available to get Horizons to do its job. “Horizons Regional Council needs to be reviewed, judicially if necessary as all the indicators are that it is now not implementing the Environment Court and High Court judgements.

“The Auditor General and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment may also have a role,” Mr Johnson said.

“We want Horizons Regional Council to come clean on what its intent actually is.”

In 2009, research by the Cawthron Institute found that the Manawatu River was one of the most polluted in the Western world, ranking lower than 300 other waterways in North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere in New Zealand.

Farm runoff, treated sewage and industrial waste were the main culprits fouling the Manawatu.

Bryce Johnson believes the One Plan was a critically important step toward cleaning up the Manawatu and other rivers in the region. It also provided a template for other regional councils to address water quality.

“The High Court judgement means the One Plan is nationally precedent setting and shows how farming can be both economically and environmentally sustainable while maintaining water quality for the country’s longer term future.”

Mr Johnson said Fish & Game had spent substantial resources to protect rivers for the whole community, not just its licence holders.

“New Zealanders have a right to use their waterways for their livelihood, traditional food gathering and recreation,” he said.

“It is time Horizons faced up to its responsibilities and started putting the environment first ahead of economic expediency, as the law requires it to do. The RMA is very clear on this,” said Mr Johnson.

“Local government is there to represent all people, not to help a few vested interests exploit the environment for their personal gain at the expense of the natural environment,” he said.

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