Harry Matthews: Legal action slows down water action

By Harry Matthews

Harry Matthews.
Harry Matthews.

Recent legal action against Horizons Regional Council smelled like a sordid strategy to upset the apple-cart on the eve of regional elections.

Fish & Game and the Environmental Defence Society have lodged claims that Horizons is not properly implementing One Plan. It comes around two years into the implementation of the environmental improvement strategy, which had taken roughly seven years to formulate.

At the start of the process it would be fair to say that Horizons and Federated Farmers would have been more comfortable throwing bricks at each other rather than sitting around a table to discuss the quality of our waterways.

However, all the stakeholders who have had a hand in negotiating the best way forward had shown a common interest in improving the environment and the quality of the water in our lakes, rivers and streams.

This has helped drive One Plan, positioning us where we are today.

We all recognise that everyone has a responsibility to ensure our waterways and the environment are as clean as possible.

Farmers have put in a lot of time and resources to reduce the footprint agricultural activities have.

With water testing showing results are improving, it seems a little petty these environmental groups now take the time to whack the Horizons Regional Council across the nose with this legal action.

Ideas from different sides were at times poles apart, yet everyone understood that they had to work together to ensure that the One Plan was pointing in the right direction.

Fish & Game had been invited to be a part of the process developing One Plan but chose not to.

Horizons estimates the potential cost to ratepayers of these new legal actions could be more than $500,000.

That is hard-earned money that could be better spent on improvements in the district than on lawyers and staff time.

As with any legal action, someone has to pay - win or lose. That someone is the ratepayer who lives within the Horizons area.

The ongoing process of improving water quality is, as Rachel Hunter once said, on a rather different topic: "It won't happen overnight but it will happen."

- Harry Matthews is Federated Farmers Wanganui provincial president

- The Country

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