There are still seven weeks left for the communities of Napier, Hastings and the Heretaunga Plains to have a say on the long-term health of the region’s waterways.

Public consultation on the Regional Council’s TANK Plan change started during COVID-19’s Level 3 of lockdown.

The Plan covers water quality with rules for water use and allocation, and is relevant to 2,000 active consents to take water across the Heretaunga Plains.  It also covers land use where there are problems with water quality and ecosystem health, and has a view to future water supply and demand.

“We’ve never asked for public submissions like this before,” says Regional Council chief executive James Palmer.

“We could have waited to be able to open our doors to the public before notifying this plan, but we’re aware of how long our community has waited for this freshwater plan to protect and improve the Tūtaekurī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū waterways,” says Mr Palmer.

“We are also acutely aware of the stress that our rural landowners are under during this extreme drought, so we’re liaising with support organisations with an interest in the TANK Plan to avoid adding to those pressures,” adds Mr Palmer.

The Regional Council delayed notifying the TANK Plan by five weeks, then extended the consultation period to nine weeks. The Council is arranging online meetings for the public, sector groups and iwi, and is investigating holding physical meetings under COVID-19 Level 2 and Level 1 guidance.

The TANK Plan change process was started in 2012 by forming a thirty-plus member stakeholder group representing the councils, sector groups, agencies, tāngata whenua, farmers, and environmental organisations.

“It’s been a complicated process based on the relationships between numerous groups, what we’ve learned from our scientists, lengthy analysis and negotiation, but this is exactly the process you go through to determine what is of value and how to manage these natural resources. After the time we’ve taken to prepare the TANK Plan, we’re now asking – have we got it right?” says Mr Palmer.

The Regional Council is progressing the TANK Plan while it awaits government amendments to Freshwater policy, which were due for release in 2020.

The proposed TANK Plan change is open for public submissions under 3 July 2020. Public hearings will take place later this year.

More information on the Plan and how to make a submission is at hbrc.govt.nz, search: #TANK.

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