Part 5: Have policies and methods been implemented?

Horizons and Otago Regional Councils: Management of freshwater resources.

In this Part, we discuss the extent to which the Horizons Regional Council and the Otago Regional Council have implemented the policies and methods outlined in their planning documents.

We considered the implementation of policies and methods related to:

  • working with territorial authorities to manage water resources;
  • regulatory methods, education initiatives, and economic instruments; and
  • increasing Māori participation, and protection of mauri.

In addition, we considered how the councils ensure that their policies and methods are implemented.

Do regional councils and territorial authorities work together to manage water resources?

The RMA promotes integrated management of natural resources. One aspect of integrated management involves different entities working together to achieve sustainable management. This includes the regional councils and territorial authorities of a region co-operating to maintain and enhance water quality, and to ensure efficient use of water resources.

Our expectations

Both councils’ planning documents set out a framework for the councils and their territorial authorities to work together to manage the effects of land use on freshwater, and to promote efficiency of water use. We expected that the frameworks would be implemented.

Territorial authorities are obliged to notify regional councils of publicly notified resource consents under the Resource Management (Forms, Fees, and Procedure) Regulations 2003 Clause 10(2). We expected that territorial authorities would comply with this requirement.

Our findings

Notification of land use consents

Neither council is always informed of resource consent applications made to their respective territorial authorities for land use activities that could affect water quality and quantity.

We understand that there have been instances where territorial authorities have granted subdivision consents in natural hazard areas, or where water resources are fully allocated and no more water is available for new dwellings.

In addition, we understand that, in some cases, regional councils have needed to rely on observations to detect new land use activities.

The Horizons Regional Council is now putting processes in place to ensure that it is notified of resource consent applications processed by the territorial authorities that have implications for the regional council.

The Otago Regional Council has sought to address the issue by reminding its territorial authorities of their responsibility to advise the Council of publicly notified resource consent applications.

A regional council may make a submission on a resource consent application notified by a territorial authority, although the territorial authority is not bound to take regional council advice. A territorial authority may also impose conditions on a resource consent to reduce the effects of the land use activity on water. However, the regional council may not know whether the conditions are being complied with.

Quality of effluent from wastewater treatment plants

Tensions may arise between regional councils and territorial authorities about the quality of effluent discharged from wastewater treatment plants operated by a territorial authority. Both the Horizons and Otago Regional Councils have policies to promote the discharge of contaminants to land rather than water (where appropriate).

The Horizons Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement includes a policy to stop the discharge of human sewage to rivers and streams within 15 years.28

These policies have substantial cost implications for territorial authorities when wastewater treatment system upgrades are required. Small territorial authorities with low rating bases may find it difficult to fund such upgrades without imposing a financial burden on ratepayers or diverting expenditure from other areas.

We were told that the Horizons Regional Council and some small rural territorial authorities are not seeking common outcomes in terms of improving the quality of effluent from wastewater treatment plants, and that territorial authorities are less prepared to do what is required to meet the Regional Policy Statement objectives.

The Horizons Regional Council and the territorial authorities have worked together to establish sewage effluent discharge consent conditions that result in an improvement in effluent quality without imposing unworkable costs on the territorial authority. Despite this, the Council is still granting some discharge consents that will not lead to the outcomes desired (that is, water quality suitable for contact recreation).

On average, territorial authorities account for almost 30% of non-complying activities detected by the Horizons Regional Council. Many of these instances of non-compliance relate to the quality and quantity of effluent discharge from wastewater treatment plants.

Territorial authorities in the Otago region have also been found to be non-compliant with their resource consents to discharge effluent from wastewater treatment plants. The Otago Regional Council has responded with a programme of repeated resource consent audits for these types of discharges, and by working with the territorial authorities to facilitate a solution.

Where upgrades to wastewater treatment systems had been made, stakeholders in each region were aware of the improvements that had been achieved in water quality. In both regions, substantial upgrades have been made in the largest cities (Dunedin and Palmerston North), but many smaller rural communities continue to discharge wastewater of varying quality into rivers.

Concluding remarks

Improvements would be desirable in the way that regional councils and some territorial authorities interact to maintain and enhance water quality and quantity.

In particular, regional councils and territorial authorities need to work together to ensure that:

  • new subdivision development takes account of water availability and natural hazards; and
  • the effects of stormwater and leachate from on-site wastewater treatment on water quality are avoided, remedied, or reduced.

Where territorial authorities include conditions on resource consents related to the management of water resources, it would be useful for those authorities to forward compliance monitoring information to the regional council.

Discharging treated human effluent into water is objectionable to many people. However, financial constraints or funding priorities can prevent territorial authorities from upgrading wastewater treatment plants to improve the quality of effluent discharged. Where communities desire improved effluent quality, alternative effluent disposal methods and funding sources should be investigated.

Have regulatory methods, education initiatives, and economic instruments been implemented?

In Part 4, we discussed whether the selected 2 regional councils had identified a range of regulatory methods, education initiatives, and economic instruments to manage water resources in their regions. In this Part, we consider whether these methods have been implemented.

Regulatory methods for water quality

Regulatory methods can be used to control significant resource management issues. Regulatory methods are applied by including rules in regional plans that restrict or prohibit certain activities. These rules have the force of regulation.29

There are some activities, such as the discharge of contaminants to water, that the RMA specifies cannot occur unless permitted by a rule in a regional plan or a resource consent.30 Regional councils may also include rules in regional plans that prohibit or restrict certain activities to achieve the objectives and policies of its regional plan.

Our expectations

Where regulatory methods had been used, we expected that they would be implemented. We also assessed whether these methods had been effective.

Our findings

Horizons Regional Council

The Horizons Regional Council’s planning documents require a resource consent to discharge contaminants to water. Discharges covered by the Manawatu Catchment Plan must comply with water quality standards set as rules in the regional plan.

The clean-up of point source discharges since the 1950s (when freezing works, abattoirs, and dairy companies discharged waste into the region’s rivers with little or no treatment) has been marked. Further progress is being made to clean up point source discharges (such as upgrading some wastewater treatment plants operated by territorial authorities). However, improvements in water quality in the region have not been as great as anticipated by the Council.

Horizons Regional Council staff concede that they have under-estimated the effect of non-point source discharge on water quality. While the Manawatu Catchment Plan includes rules about discharges from on-site sewage treatment systems to land, a non-regulatory approach (which is based on information provision and promotion of riparian management) has been taken to dealing with other non-point source discharges.

Otago Regional Council

Point source discharge is regulated by the Otago Regional Plan: Water.

Removal of the Dunedin City wastewater treatment plant discharge from the Taieri River has significantly improved water quality in the river below Allanton. However, water quality in the lower Taieri remains degraded. Some farmers in the Taieri catchment that we spoke to said the water quality was very poor and that their families no longer swam in the river.

The Council has acknowledged that the quality of the water in the lower Taieri is closely related to agricultural practices, and has responded to this with a strong education programme geared towards reducing non-point source discharges to the river. This response reflects the Otago Regional Council’s educate first and regulate second approach.

Monitoring compliance with resource consents to discharge containments to water is discussed in paragraphs 6.71-6.85.

Concluding remarks

The discharge of contaminants into freshwater is regulated by both councils. While gains have been made in preventing water quality degradation through the application of these rules, including stopping (or reducing) the amount of human and agricultural effluent discharged directly to water, further improvements in water quality will require the councils to address non-point source discharges.

Issues related to non-point source discharges have traditionally been dealt with through education or financial incentives – for example, by providing advice on fertiliser use or funding for riparian planting. However, councils may now need to consider a regulatory approach for non-point source discharges where environmental effects are apparent or likely. This may include (but is not limited to) requiring nutrient budgeting31, reducing fertiliser application, or planting riparian margins.

Introducing or strengthening rules to address the effects of non-point source discharges could usefully be supported by education to ensure that people understand the reasons for taking a regulatory approach, and using financial incentives to help change behaviour. The success of a regulatory approach also relies on a comprehensive compliance and enforcement regime. This is discussed in paragraphs 7.3-7.25.

Regulatory methods for water allocation

Where there are competing pressures on freshwater resources, a balance may be required to ensure that there is sufficient water to support environmental values, while allowing enough water to be taken to support the region’s economy.

Setting a water allocation framework includes determining how much water is available for use (for example, for irrigation) while ensuring that enough water is left in rivers, streams, and creeks to protect identified environmental values. Other aspects of water allocation include putting measures in place to restrict water takes during low flows.

Our expectations

We expected that regional councils would have identified waters under pressure, and established scientifically and legally sound mechanisms for allocating water and protecting environmental values. Where these mechanisms (such as minimum flows and allocation limits) were in place, we expected that resource consents for taking water would reflect them.

Our findings

Setting minimum flows

Both councils are drawing upon the Ministry for the Environment’s Flow Guidelines for Instream Values to set minimum flows, and are using the Instream Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM)32 which provides an estimate of the habitat available at different flows. These tools are useful in helping to determine the effect that water flows will have on ecosystems. Ultimately, the setting of minimum flows is decided by a range of scientific methods, and by taking into account the objectives set for the stream or river, and the views of the relevant community and other stakeholders.

In the absence of robust scientific data to set minimum flows for specific rivers, both councils had attempted to set minimum flows on a number of rivers, using estimated or default flow values. These values were challenged in both regions (in Manawatu-Wanganui at a resource consent hearing, and in Otago in the Environment Court). This highlights the need to have good research and science behind the minimum flow value, in order to adequately protect environmental values and to provide for resource use.

Resource users and conservationists we spoke to supported the establishment of minimum flows. They considered that minimum flows protected ecosystems and recreational use, and helped resource users determine what volume of water could be taken.

Other stakeholders we interviewed were affected differently by the setting of the minimum flows and allocation limits. These effects included:

  • reduced recreational use of the river for extended periods of time, and degradation of existing water quality;
  • reduced economic viability of farms (with flow-on effects to local communities);
  • reduced ability to increase the volume of the community water supply, meaning that further expansion of the community must rely on alternative water sources; and
  • uncertainty about whether minimum flows would support sports fisheries in small side streams.
Allocating water

For rivers facing increased demand, both councils had, in most resource consents we considered, included provisions requiring resource consent-holders to stop or reduce water takes as river flows declined. Resource consent-holders also had to record the volume of water taken and send this information to the regional council. Some resource consents require consent-holders to install automated systems for this purpose.

In addition, both councils commissioned a report on reasonable rates of water for domestic and rural use (either in a catchment, or throughout the region). The Horizons Regional Council intends that rates determined in its commissioned report will be used to apply limits to resource consents to take water. The more recent resource consents issued by the Otago Regional Council take account of a detailed assessment of water use against the water volumes suggested in its commissioned report.

In the Manawatu-Wanganui region, the majority of resource consents held by territorial authorities to take water for community supply include requirements to record volumes of water taken and report this information to the Horizons Regional Council. Newer consents also require territorial authorities to install water meters capable of providing the Council with telemetered33 data on volumes of water taken.

Some resource consents to take water for community supply also require territorial authorities to prepare a Water Conservation Plan, with the objective of achieving efficient use of water.

In Otago, existing resource consents to take water for community supply are not subject to minimum flows, although any new future consent to take water for this purpose may be.

Since the Regional Plan: Water became operative, the Otago Regional Council has been including a requirement to monitor and report the volume and rate of water taken when resource consents are renewed.

Consents to take water for community supply on the Kakanui River (which is subject to a minimum flow) do not include any monitoring or reporting requirements. The Council will consider imposing these requirements when renewal of resource consents for these takes is sought.

Monitoring compliance with resource consents to take water is discussed in paragraphs 6.63-6.70.

Restricting water takes during low flows

As discussed in Part 4, the Horizons Regional Council’s Oroua Catchment Plan sets up a framework for restricting water takes during periods of low flow. Implementation of this plan requires water users to be advised when these restrictions are in effect. The Council has devised an automated telephone message system for this purpose. However, the system is not operational because a list of telephone numbers has not been compiled.

Resource consents to take water from the Rangitikei River in the Manawatu-Wanganui region allow different volumes of water to be taken, depending on the flow of the river. The level of compliance monitoring of resource consents to take water was not sufficient to enable us to determine whether irrigators have reduced the volume of water taken when river flows have fallen.

In the Otago region, the chairperson of the Kakanui River Water Allocation Committee receives an automated text message when the river’s flow falls, and is responsible for advising water users that a roster system for taking water from the river is in effect. The system requires some water users to stop taking water, while others may continue. Access to water is changed on a regular rotation.

If the river goes below the minimum flow of 250 litres a second, the chairperson must direct all irrigators to stop taking water until the flow increases to 400 litres a second. This means that all irrigators may not be able to use water from the Kakanui River for the remainder of the irrigation period (usually summer), which could lead to production losses.

In February 2004 (shortly after the Regional Plan: Water became operative, but before water-take consents had been amended to take account of minimum flow requirements) the flow on the Kakanui River dropped below 250 litres a second.

The Otago Regional Council responded by holding urgent meetings with irrigators in the region, emphasising the significance of the new regional plan requirements.

Stakeholders were aware of the breach of the minimum flow, and considered that the Otago Regional Council should have taken further action at this stage.

Under section 329 of the RMA, regional councils also have the ability to apportion, restrict, or suspend water takes or discharge of contaminants to water when they consider that there is a temporary shortage of water in the region. Neither council has used this provision to date.

Concluding remarks

Both councils are setting minimum flows on rivers where there is a high demand for water. Where minimum flows have been set, the resource consent conditions that we looked at reflect these flows and can be used to monitor compliance.

Both councils have designed automated systems to warn consent-holders when river flows are low and restrictions on water use are required. This system has not been fully implemented in the Manawatu-Wanganui region as a list of telephone numbers has not been compiled.

The system designed by the Otago Regional Council to restrict water takes on the Kakanui River during low flows has the potential to be effective, and allows users to manage water resources among themselves. However, the system could place considerable responsibility on the water allocation committee chairperson to ensure that minimum flows are not breached. A breach would result in all irrigators being prevented from taking water until river flows were restored to 400 litres a second.

Accordingly, we consider that the Otago Regional Council needs to continue to work closely with water allocation committees to ensure that minimum flows are not breached, now that the Regional Plan: Water is in effect and water users have had time to understand its implications.

Education initiatives

Education initiatives can help communities understand the effect of their activities, and how to reduce negative effects.

Our expectations

Where regional councils had identified education initiatives, we expected that they would have been implemented, or provision made to implement them.

Our findings

Horizons Regional Council

The Horizons Regional Council’s education initiatives include:

  • providing information to farmers about effluent treatment systems and appropriate methods for dealing with agricultural waste;
  • promoting riparian management (including promotion of landcare groups);
  • promotion of good practice guidelines;
  • promoting efficiency in the use of surface water; and
  • co-operating with organisations such as Federated Farmers to educate the community about the effect of discharges from agricultural activities and the benefits of riparian management.

The Council has sought to implement these education initiatives by:

  • Employing council staff to advise on how to approach resource management issues, the consent process, and sustainable land use.34 Advice and staff time is provided free to ratepayers.
  • Producing documents such as the Regional Action Plan to implement the Fonterra Clean Streams Accord35, brochures and booklets on topics such as riparian management and wetlands, and On-site Wastewater System Guidelines, which are designed to help people install or upgrade septic tank systems.
  • Conducting workshops with targeted groups, such as market gardeners, to raise awareness of the effects of fertiliser use on water quality, and with iwi and hapu to provide information on research projects and how to use water quality monitoring kits.
  • Holding public meetings and field days – for example, public meetings to discuss the new water allocation policy.
  • Facilitating education in schools, which includes water quality education, stream monitoring, and a scheme where school children grow trees for riparian management.
  • Promoting water conservation practices and efficient use of water by requiring installation of water meters, checking for leaking pipes during compliance inspections, and encouraging dairy farmers to re-use cooling water for dairy shed wash-downs. An action plan to promote water-use efficiency is being developed as part of the One Plan.

Some stakeholders we spoke to said that Horizons Regional Council staff were knowledgeable when providing advice, and were supportive of the one-on-one approach taken by soil conservators to encourage sustainable land use practices. Farmers we spoke to said that free advice was an incentive to use the soil conservators and do what they suggested.

Little has been done to implement some methods in planning documents, such as co-operating with Federated Farmers and promoting land care groups. Some stakeholders told us that they had not been given information or help on how to efficiently use water resources.

Compliance officers at the Horizons Regional Council also have a role in educating resource consent-holders about good practice during on-site compliance monitoring inspections. However, they receive no training on how to best “get the message across”.

While compliance officers record when routine inspections are undertaken, there is no record of visits where advice is given. In addition, few records are kept when Horizons Regional Council staff give education presentations or advice, whether on the telephone or face-to-face.

The Horizons Regional Council is currently re-evaluating its approach to education, including whether forming partnerships with stakeholders and advocating compliance with industry standards and Codes of Practice could achieve more. Some staff consider that the current initiatives tend to maintain relationships with members of the community who are receptive to the education messages, but do not reach those who are not.

Territorial authorities we spoke to said they would like to see the Horizons Regional Council take a stronger leadership role with education in the region, and would be interested in being involved in co-ordinated education programmes. They considered it would be more cost-effective for the Horizons Regional Council to provide a centralised education resource.

Otago Regional Council

The education initiatives described in Otago Regional Council planning documents include:

  • facilitating education programmes to improve community awareness and understanding of water issues and sustainable management in Otago;
  • providing resource information and education about the means available for better resource use and management;
  • promotion of water conservation practices and efficient use of water; and
  • promotion of codes of practice.

These education initiatives are implemented through:

  • Catchment programmes, which involve council staff working closely with communities, the Department of Conservation, the local Fish and Game Council, and groups such as the Taieri Trust.36 Catchment programmes aim to build awareness of issues, provide education, run field days, and work with schools. Each programme has a 5-year life, with outcomes chosen by the community and tailored specifically to the catchment – for example, restoration of mahinga kai, and swimming areas. Catchment programmes may be supported by targeted water quality monitoring, and are funded through general rates.
  • The Dairy Farming Waterway Protection Programme, which was developed in response to the pressures on the environment from increases in the number of farms being converted to dairying in the Otago region. Through this programme, the Otago Regional Council has set a target of total exclusion of dairy cows from waterways by June 2005, and reports that 85% of waterways on dairy farms are currently fenced. The programme includes newsletters and information packs, annual monitoring of dairy farms, and field days.
  • Brochures and other information material – for example, for resource consent applicants and submitters, and on issues such as the environmental implications of farming, irrigation, riparian management, and wetlands.
  • Public workshops, including workshops targeted at territorial authorities and Federated Farmers, and workshops on the content and purpose of the Otago Regional Plan: Water. These were well attended throughout the region.
  • Field days providing education on water use efficiency, and a presentation to farmers and contractors on water storage.

The Otago Regional Council’s catchment programmes are well developed, and highly regarded by most community stakeholders.

There was no evidence that the Otago Regional Council promotes codes of practice. It has prepared a Regional Action Plan to implement the Fonterra Clean Stream Accord. However, it is yet to agree the action plan’s content with Fonterra. The region is currently ahead of the Accord’s requirements, but wishes to include additional requirements for limiting dairy stock on farms where sub-surface drains provide a conduit for releasing dairy effluent into freshwater.

Concluding remarks

Both the Horizons and Otago Regional Councils have implemented the majority of the education initiatives outlined in their planning documents.

Stakeholders generally considered that the advice provided by Council staff was of a high standard. Provision of free advice can be an incentive for people to implement Council suggestions on resource management issues.

Education programmes are most effective when regional councils and community groups work together to achieve common goals. The Otago Regional Council’s catchment programmes are a good example of the gains that can be made when regional councils and communities co-ordinate their efforts.

Benefits could also be gained by regional councils and territorial authorities combining their education efforts – in particular, those related to promoting efficiency of water use and preventing stormwater contamination. Collaboration can be cost-effective and allow education initiatives to be undertaken throughout the region, including in small communities where regional council staff are not present on a regular basis.

Compliance officers are in a good position to educate resource consent-holders about good practice during on-site compliance monitoring inspections, and should receive training on how to best “get the message across” to consent-holders.

Requests for advice and information give councils an indication of which areas stakeholders are unsure about, and provide a mechanism for monitoring frequently asked questions, measuring how much advice is given, and for planning future education initiatives. Keeping records of the type of advice given, and to whom, is useful for these purposes.

Economic instruments

The use of economic instruments (such as financial incentives) by regional councils can encourage community groups and individuals to undertake projects to maintain or enhance water resources that might not otherwise be possible.

Financial incentives can also be used to encourage desirable behaviour, such as compliance with resource consents or efficient use of water resources.

Other economic instruments, such as transferable water permits, can lead to efficient allocation of freshwater resources.

Our expectations

We expected that the economic instruments identified by regional councils in their planning documents would be implemented.

Our findings

Horizons Regional Council

The Horizons Regional Council’s financial incentives for the management of water quality or quantity include:

  • Annual funding of at least $50,000 to He Tini Awa Trust37 for wetland restoration, preservation, enhancement, and creation. Funding is fully allocated each year, and more than $50,000 may be provided.
  • Environmental grants to landowners and community groups for works to protect and enhance the environment. Applications for grants are assessed against an eligibility policy, and the number of applications generally exceeds the budgeted amount. Not all the money is paid out each year as some individuals or groups do not undertake the work that was proposed in the grant application.
  • Reduced inspection fees for those who comply with resource consent conditions.
  • Granting longer consent periods for more favourable activities such as land-based effluent discharge instead of discharge to water – for example, discharging dairy effluent to land is granted a 25-year consent, whereas consents for discharge to water are granted for only 3 years.

The Horizons Regional Council also provides for the transfer of water permits between irrigators in the same catchment during periods of water restrictions. The Council is the first regional council to include these provisions in a regional plan. However, the uptake of transferable permits has been low because demand for water in the catchment was not as high as expected.

Otago Regional Council

The Otago Regional Council’s Chief Executive Officer and councillors told us that, in general, they did not consider financial incentives to be an equitable use of public money. Where funding is provided, the Council takes steps to ensure that the projects are sustained in the long-term and that public access is maintained.

The Otago Regional Plan: Water provides for the encouragement and support (including funding) of community initiatives that help to maintain or enhance water resources and their riparian margins.

The Otago Regional Council also has a biodiversity fund. However, the uptake from this fund for enhancement of water resources – for example, by protecting wetlands or fencing riparian margins – has been limited. This may be because the fund requires covenants on land and the maintenance of public access.

Concluding remarks

The Horizons Regional Council has made more extensive use of, and introduced a wider range of, economic instruments than its Otago counterpart. These include reduced inspection charges for resource consent-holders who comply with their resource consent conditions and transferable water permits.

Both councils provide financial incentives in the form of environmental grants for wetland protection and enhancement, and for riparian management. Both councils assess applications for environmental grants against eligibility criteria.

Community demand for Council grants for environmental enhancement work is high in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. There is less demand for funding in the Otago region, probably because the grants are subject to conditions such as covenants and provision of public access to the area where work has been carried out.

While there is a higher level of demand for environmental grants in the Manawatu- Wanganui region, not all the projects for which grants are approved are undertaken by those who apply for the funding. There can be many reasons for this, including changing priorities or family circumstances. However, when it becomes clear that projects will not go ahead, this funding should be freed for other projects. The more projects undertaken in a financial year, the greater the opportunity for environmental enhancement.

We understand the Otago Regional Council’s caution in providing public money for environmental enhancement projects. Nevertheless, if the community wants better water quality or wetland and biodiversity protection, then grants can be a useful way of enhancing the environment in these areas.

Have policies and methods for increasing Maori participation and protecting mauri been implemented?

Both the Horizons and Otago Regional Councils included policies and methods in their planning documents related to iwi consultation and participation in resource management and protection of mauri.

Our expectations

We expected that iwi would be consulted about resource consent applications for activities with effects of concern to Māori.

We also expected that regional council staff and councillors would be trained to recognise activities that have implications for Māori, and to discharge their obligations in a manner that recognises the special interests of Māori.

Our findings

Resource consent processing

We assessed 25 resource consents granted by the Horizons Regional Council to discharge contaminants to water (including 13 to discharge human sewage effluent to water). In most cases, the Council assessment of the resource consent application did not include any reference to the protection and enhancement of mauri, and there was no mention of tangata whenua concerns about such discharges.

The Horizons Regional Council has not commissioned any reports from iwi and hapu for presentation at resource consent hearings (as provided for in the Manawatu Catchment Plan). Sometimes an iwi advisor will offer an interpretation of matters at the hearing, and Māori Commissioners are used when iwi issues are to be heard. There were few iwi submissions on resource consents.

An iwi representative we spoke to in the Manawatu-Wanganui region said they received copies of all publicly notified resource consent applications, but were unsure how the Horizons Regional Council determined who was an affected party for non-notified or limited notification consent applications.

Council staff told us that if iwi had identified an area of interest, then it would ensure that the iwi was included as an affected party for any resource consent application for that area. However, with no finalised Iwi Management Plans or Memoranda of Understanding, and little consultation on planning documents, it is not clear how iwi could identify areas of interest with the Horizons Regional Council.

The Otago Regional Council and Kai Tahu have determined that Kai Tahu ki Otago Ltd is best placed to facilitate consultation between resource consent applicants and runanga that may be affected parties. The Council provides some funding to Kai Tahu ki Otago Ltd for its involvement in this role. In addition, the Council is currently working with Kai Tahu ki Otago Ltd to prepare guidance for staff about which resource consents need to be sent to affected runanga for consultation.

In the Otago region, we looked at 10 assessments of resource consents to discharge contaminants to water. Nine of these consents showed evidence of involvement of, or attempted engagement with, iwi, or consideration of the Kai Tahu NRM Plan. The single consent where there was no evidence of iwi consultation was processed in 1994 and is currently being renewed.

Capacity to address iwi issues

At present, there is no formal structure for iwi representation to the Horizons Regional Council. Previously, an advisory committee called Te Roopu Awhina was responsible for integrating iwi priorities into the management of the region’s resources.

The committee’s role was not well defined, which led to a review of its structure and relationship with the Council. This review was completed in early 1998, and, while there was almost unanimous support for retaining the committee in some form, there has been little progress in determining what form of iwi engagement will exist in the future.

The Council intends to establish an iwi engagement policy, which sets out methods of engagement with Māori. An interim policy is currently in place.

The Horizons Regional Council employs a full-time iwi liaison officer. Some staff, who are prepared to commit personal time, have received basic training in Te Reo Māori. Council staff may find it difficult to appreciate how Māori views differ from those held by other cultures, as the Council does not offer an induction for new staff about iwi issues, and staff do not receive training in Māori resource management.

Otago Regional Council staff are required to attended a cultural workshop, which includes training on Kai Tahu’s relationship with the land and natural resources. Council staff engage Kai Tahu ki Otago Ltd to write sections of planning documents related to iwi issues, and to identify issues affecting iwi during resource consent processing.

Concluding remarks

The Horizons Regional Council has taken few steps to increase Māori participation or protect mauri. In most instances, the Council’s assessment of the resource consent applications did not include any reference to protection and enhancement of mauri, and there was no mention of tangata whenua concerns, even when resource consents dealt with the discharge of human effluent.

The RMA establishes the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga as a matter of national importance. In addition, many regional plans make reference to the protection of mauri. Accordingly, (whether or not iwi make submissions on resource consents) we consider that regional councils should consider these issues as part of the resource consent process, particularly for consents to discharge treated human effluent to water.

The Otago Regional Council has made good progress in ensuring Kai Tahu ki Otago Ltd and affected runanga are involved in the resource consent process.

Understanding Māori values related to resource management is a key skill for Council staff who are involved in developing resource management policy, making resource consent decisions, and designing monitoring programmes.

How do regional councils ensure that policies and methods are implemented? Our expectations

As well as implementing the policies and methods outlined in Regional Plans and Regional Policy Statements, we expected that each council would have a system in place to ensure that policies were implemented.

Our findings

Many policies and methods set out in Horizons Regional Council’s planning documents have not been implemented. These include research projects and reviews of plan rules. Some of this work is now being done as part of the development of the One Plan.

The Horizons Regional Council has not developed a strategy for the implementation of its policies. The document Horizons Regional Council 2004-06 Activity Business Plans outlines the activities that staff will undertake. However, there are few references to policies and methods in planning documents, and very little detail is provided.

“Plan champions” have been appointed to ensure that non-regulatory methods in specific plans are implemented. However, the appointed “champions” do not appear to have the authority or the time to drive policy implementation.

In 2002, the Horizons Regional Council produced its first Environmental Progress and Planning Report. A second report was produced in 2003. These reports measure progress towards the achievement of Regional Policy Statement objectives by looking at the implementation of regulatory and non-regulatory tools, and the results of research and monitoring.

The reports are useful as a high-level description of progress towards Regional Policy Statement objectives. However, they are not a detailed account of whether policies and methods have been implemented.

Until the beginning of 2004, the Horizons Regional Council did not have a formal system for monitoring the implementation of policies and methods in its Regional Plans. Since then, Plan/Strategy Implementation Progress Reports have been submitted to the Council.

Statements on progress made in these reports are useful and also identify priority areas and action. However, the statements under these headings are broad, or state that “existing activities are continuing”. As a result, they give councillors or senior Council managers little insight into progress.

In Otago, most of the policies and methods that we looked at in the Regional Policy Statement and Regional Plan: Water had been implemented, or were in the process of being implemented.

In 2001, the Otago Regional Council reported to its policy committee on the implementation of its Regional Policy Statement and Regional Plans. A second report on the implementation of the Regional Plan: Water in 2003 included an Implementation Strategy for achieving the outcomes of the Regional Plan: Water. It set out whether action had been taken to implement specific policies, objectives and methods, and identified areas where no action had been taken.

Concluding remarks

At the Horizons Regional Council, many policies and methods have not been implemented. Council staff have only recently started to report to the Council on progress made in implementing policies and methods in its Regional Plans. While these reports identify priority areas for action, they do not allow councillors or senior Council managers to assess whether progress has been made.

During the preparation of planning documents, Council staff need to give careful thought to how the implementation of policies and methods will occur. Action plans that assign responsibility for individual tasks may be required.

When planning documents become operative, the community can rightly expect that the policies and methods outlined in the plans will be implemented. Council managers need to ensure that implementation is occurring. To provide assurance that this is happening, councils need to monitor progress towards implementation and report their progress – for example, to a council committee or senior council managers.

In Otago, the majority of policies and methods that we looked at in the Regional Policy Statement and Regional Plan: Water had been implemented, or were in the process of being implemented. Considering that the plan only became operative in early 2004, this is a significant achievement.

Council staff also provide reports to the Council on progress made towards implementation of policies and methods, allowing councillors to oversee progress.

28: Unless the discharge to rivers and streams is consistent with the policy to achieve water quality suitable for contact recreation, or discharging to land does not meet the purpose of the RMA.

29: RMA, section 68.

30: RMA, section 15.

31: Nutrient budgeting is a tool for measuring nutrient inputs (such as fertiliser and effluent) and nutrient outputs (such as milk, meat, or nutrient leaching). It can help to identify nutrient surplus or deficit, which can be rectified with appropriate management changes to produce more environmentally friendly and economically effective farming systems.

32: For more information see:

33: Telemetry is the science and technology of automatic measurement and transmission of data by wire, radio, or other means from remote sources, to receiving stations for recording and analysis. A telemeter is a device that measures, transmits, and receives data used in telemetry.

34: Soil conservators may also work with farmers to develop Environmental Farm Plans, which identify options for sustainable land use – including soil conservation, nutrient budgeting, biodiversity protection, and stream fencing.

35: The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord is an agreement between Fonterra Co-operative Group, regional councils and unitary authorities, the Ministry for the Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to work together to promote sustainable dairy farming. It includes performance targets, and requires regional councils and Fonterra to establish a Regional Action Plan for each region.

36: The Taieri Trust is a community-based organisation focused on the sustainable management of the Taieri River, Otago. The Trust was established in 2001 with the aim of developing closer ties between the community and University of Otago in the Taieri catchment and encouraging environmental action.

37: He Tini Awa Trust is a charitable trust established in late-2002. Its objective is to support the creation, preservation, restoration, and enhancement of the region’s natural ecosystems and landscapes.

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