Region's relief with one plan to rule them all

By Christine McKay

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Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis.
Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis.

A Dannevirke businessman says he's relieved the negative economic impacts of the One Plan on our region are no longer the threat he once thought.

"I was dead worried about the economy of our region when the first figures and statistics regarding the impact of the One Plan were released five months ago," Paul Brook of Dannevirke PaperPlus said.

Mr Brook, and others in the Dannevirke business community, met members of the Tararua Economic Impact Group and Horizons Regional Council in Dannevirke on Friday afternoon to learn how negotiations regarding nutrient budgeting restrictions on farmers had progressed.

"It was very positive, absolutely so. I think now both parties are starting to play together and the results just go to show if you do lobby hard for something, you'll get a good result," he said.

Early figures had shown a $60 million hit to the Tararua economy if Horizons Regional Council had gone with the Environment Court's ruling on nutrient budgeting as part of the One Plan.

But after six months of intensive lobbying by the Tararua Economic Impact Group, headed by Dannevirke dairy farmer Russell Phillips, there's finally more surety for dairy farmers and the business community.

"During the past six months both Horizons and the economic group, who are acting on behalf of farmers and businesses, have come to a sensible arrangement over how the nutrient budgeting aspects of the One Plan will be implemented," Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis said.

However, Mr Ellis said the government needs to be realistic and understand the economic impact when regulations and rules are put in place. "Now both Horizons and the economic group are on the same page which is great," he said.

After 350 people attended a sometimes-fiery meeting in Dannevirke in May, a lot of hard work had gone on behind the scenes, Mr Ellis said.

"At that time it seemed like the Tararua was akin to Syria," he told Friday's meeting. "Now there's peace and calm." Mr Ellis told the Dannevirke News both parties had worked towards a compromise. "I've sat down and been the person in the middle, very keen that we weren't going to end up with an absolute farce and everyone throwing grenades at each other," he said. "We had to keep talking and talking because the economic impact on the Tararua, as well as individuals, six months ago wasn't good news."

The rules mean existing intensive farming in some parts of the region will require a consent but Horizons chairman, Bruce Gordon, said these will be granted in all cases. "We are committed to economic growth in our region while also being aware of the increasing interest and expectations of the public on environmental issues," he said. "The decision council has made means all farmers have the security to keep on farming as they will be given a consent while they make the changes on farm to reduce nitrogen entering waterways."

Mr Gordon said his council recognises the reliance on the region's natural resources, especially in the farming sector whose economic viability hinges on the availability and quality of land and water resources.

"Farmers have done a huge amount in the past decade to reduce their impact in our region. Where we once had around 900 dairy sheds discharging effluent to waterways, we now have none," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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