Proposed Plan Change 7 – hundreds of submissions received

We have received several hundred submissions on proposed Plan Change 7 to the Land & Water Regional Plan.

Planning Manager Andrew Parrish said the exact number would be known “in a few weeks” after the independent hearing panel decides whether it will accept late submissions.

“It is safe to say, however, that we have never received anywhere near as many for any previous plan change – or even for the original Land & Water Regional Plan,” he said. “This shows how interested communities are in important freshwater provisions that may affect them – with further focus now on the Government’s Action Plan for Healthy Waterways as well.”

What happens next?

A “summary of decisions requested” will be prepared by Environment Canterbury and publicly notified for further submissions later this year.

Following this, a public hearing of submissions and evidence will happen. The hearing, in front of an independent hearing panel, is likely to be held during the first half of 2020.

The independent hearing panel will prepare a set of recommendations for Environment Canterbury to consider and potentially adopt as its decision.

Key points

Proposed Plan Change 7 to the Land & Water Regional Plan, the last to be notified with the Environment Canterbury Act still in place, is in three parts.

Part A

Part A applies region wide and aims to:

  • Improve freshwater outcomes for Canterbury
  • Protect habitats of indigenous freshwater species
  • Enable consideration of Ngāi Tahu values in relation to a broader range of activities
  • Provide the use of managed aquifer recharge (a technique to improve the volume and quality of groundwater) across the region
  • Establish a new nutrient framework for commercial vegetable growing operations
  • Implement recommendations from the Hinds Drains Working Party.

Part B and C

Parts B and C relate to the Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora (OTOP) and Waimakariri sub-regions respectively.

These parts have been developed in collaboration with the Waimakariri and OTOP Zone Committees, and implement recommendations in their Zone Implementation Programme Addenda (ZIPAs).

Key changes introduced by Parts B and C include:

  • New water quality limits for groundwater and surface water
  • Requirements for farms to further reduce nitrogen losses over time
  • Increases to minimum flows for rivers and streams
  • A cap on the volume of water available for allocation
  • Requirements to exclude stock from a broader range of waterbodies.

Find out more about Plan Change 7 and Plan Change 2.

What about the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways?

The Government’s proposals in the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways are at the start of the public consultation process.

Proposed Plan Change 7 is currently in the middle of the formal Resource Management Act process under the legislation as it now stands.

So essentially Plan Change 7 is not affected by the Government’s proposals at this stage.

If, however, the Government reaches the stage of gazetting a new National Policy Statement-Freshwater (NPS) before the independent hearing panel delivers its recommendations on Plan Change 7, the panel will consider the contents and relevance of the new NPS when preparing its recommendations.

Environment Canterbury is currently considering the detail of the Government’s announcements. The proposals included actions that are already being taken in Canterbury – for example, it has been working with the farming community to bring down nutrient limits for nearly a decade.

Proposed Plan Change 7 is a further development of this approach, with specific rules for OTOP and Waimakariri as well as new region-wide rules.

Land use consent to farm, Farm Environment Plans (FEP) and independent FEP audits have been features of Canterbury’s planning regime for some time. We have in place rules around stock exclusion and winter grazing, and the farming community has responded to these as they have been introduced.

Environment Canterbury is considering the detail in the proposals, but overall there are no surprises and Canterbury is well down the track already with changes through its plans and the community’s response.