Regional plan finally adopted

By Lindy Laird

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"Basically it is a good, modern, innovative policy statement that balances the environmental and social needs of Northland." - Commissioner Brent Cowie. Photo / File
"Basically it is a good, modern, innovative policy statement that balances the environmental and social needs of Northland." - Commissioner Brent Cowie. Photo / File

Northland Regional Council has adopted the Regional Policy Statement that has been four years in the making, entailed hundreds of meetings and attracted thousands of public submissions.

As recommended by the panel of independent commissioners after a long process of submitters' hearings and review, Northland's over-arching resource management document now contains a precautionary statement regarding the use of genetically engineered material in the environment. It does not address liability for GE accidents.

It calls for improved water quality but does not include mining-specific provisions, saying other frameworks - such as water quality - were adequate for assessing mining proposals.

On Tuesday, the council members present to adopt the document that chairman Craig Brown called "a milestone" acknowledged while they had reservations over some of its parts, in essence the sum of its whole was probably as good as it gets - that is, without going back to an expensive and time-consuming drawing board.

Graeme Ramsey described the GE component as "a badly balanced compromise".

"[But] it comes down to the question of is [the RPS] an improvement for Northland? The short answer is that it is."

One of the commissioners, Brent Cowie, congratulated the council members, staff, stakeholders and public for the result.

While the commissioners recommended some changes, "the structure remains pretty much as notified", he said.

Mr Brown, Bill Rossiter, Tony Davis-Colley, Bronwyn Hunt, Bill Rossiter and Graeme Ramsey unanimously adopted the RPS. Hokianga-Kaikohe ward member Joe Carr had moments before withdrawn from the meeting, saying the process was "undemocratic and represented community disenfranchisement". The end product should require more debate at council level, Mr Carr said.

Policy committee chairman Ian Walker was absent due to a family bereavement and John Bain was overseas.

Mr Brown paid tribute to everyone involved in developing the RPS, and said he was pleased it had been adopted during the current term, enabling the new council to "hit the ground running".

Meanwhile, the calibre of the Proposed RPS has been recognised with a national award, the details of which will be made public soon, Mr Brown said.

Submitters will now have the right to appeal any aspect of the 180-page policy statement in the Environment Court.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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