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It's the least we can do

Today several Otago Regional Councillors will consider the stakeholder feedback and staff responses to the contentious Land and Water Plan. It's the least we can do.

We have 35 pages summarising the stakeholder feedback and staff recommendations for amendments based on that information.  This is all considered in the context of hundreds of pages of reports into Otago water quality that do not paint a pretty picture.


The scale of our issues are detailed in several studies that are all now publicly available. This state of the environment report gives a good overall picture.


All this all deserves acknowledgement, consideration and discussion despite calls to ditch today's workshop - it's public by the way. Find it on YouTube. This feedback will inform our plan.  Important to note, we will have a plan, delayed or not a plan is on its way and, contrary to some views, there is no directive to stop work on it. For more context you can read the Otago Daily Times story here.


Stakeholders will have put weeks of work, consulted professionals and brought members together to make the best case possible for whatever position they take.  For us not to receive this, and to not receive the expert reactions to this would be highly disrespectful to say the least and would effectively turn our back on stakeholder efforts.


And of course, our responsibility is to sustainably manage water.  This is highly unlikely to change regardless of the political landscape.  And it doesn’t matter whether the issues arise in urban or rural areas, we have a responsibility to meet the minimum nationally set standards for fresh water and we are failing, on a large scale.  I have no intention of ignoring this and think most councillors are of a similar mind.


Some have expressed concern about the National Policy Statement Fresh Water Management and its Te Mana o te Wai prioritising framework. That framework puts the health of the water first, drinking water second and economic uses down the priority list.   This is in government’s hands to change as they see fit.  I have no concerns at this point.


I agree with these priorities at a high level while acknowledging there is much devil in the detail of how we apply them. I have no probem with the Māori title of the priorities nor with the concepts of mana or mauri.


What is very clear to me is that the people of Otago have prioritised, in every survey we do, the health of water.  They want clean water they can swim in.  The latest data shows that a full 67% of our waterways fall below at least one national bottom line.  This is nowhere near good enough.  Our Land and Water Plan wants to improve this.  I cannot imagine that government doesn't agree.

So there is nothing to fear from going through the processes of how we do this.  Today’s workshop, understanding how we might include the voices and opinions of the people who are out there on the farms, in the forests, on the waterways, is the right thing to do.

To be clear, the letter from the Minister allows us to delay the plan and offers a pathway to notify earlier if we deem that necessary. You can read the letter below.


You can read about Dunstan Councillor views at this Crux story.  Please note my reference to 35 pages of submissions should read 35 pages of the summary of submissions.

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