The economic impact of proposed new controversial land-use rules for the Lake Rotorua catchment will be considered before formal consultation gets under way.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said assurances by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to consider the economic impacts before next year's formal consultation phase were positive.
The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme (RTALP), a partnership between Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Rotorua District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council, received feedback during informal consultation that confirmed clean lakes were wanted, but there was a need to balance that with the success of the district's economy. Research is being carried out on the economic impact and is expected to be analysed alongside scientific results, technical and legislative requirements and decisions already made by RTALP within the first half of next year.
"All parties remain committed to achieving water quality levels for Lake Rotorua and acknowledge that this can be achieved through a mix of incentives and rules that are acceptable to the residents of Rotorua," Mrs Chadwick said. "We acknowledge the concerns of landowners about the land-use restrictions they're facing. Their anxieties around land valuations and the economic impact the proposed rules could have for them, and the wider district, are genuine and shared."
Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme Strategy Group chairman and Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Sir Toby Curtis said Rotorua's lakes were vital to the district's cultural, social, environmental and economic wellbeing.
"Improving and protecting water quality in our lakes remains of prime importance - as does the economic sustainability of key sectors we rely on, and the wellbeing and future economic security of our residents.
"We need to make sure that whatever is put in place is going to do the least possible harm, as well as protect the wellbeing and future economic security of our residents," Sir Toby said.
Support services for landowners are also being developed. The meeting discussed concerns about the health and wellbeing of landowners affected by the proposed new rules. A draft package of support is expected to be presented at the strategy group's next meeting in early December.
The proposed land-use rules would require reduced nitrogen discharges and would affect all rural properties larger than 2ha. The rules would place stricter limits on nitrogen losses from rural land and would require annual reporting. Some properties would require resource consents.
Recent informal consultation with landowners produced strong opposition from small-block owners. Regional council chairman Doug Leeder said informal feedback from landowners helped define the areas requiring further investigation, with the next phase being a robust economic evaluation.
"We're in the early stages of the legislative process, so there are lots of opportunities for people to have input and influence the outcomes. It's important that all affected or interested people remain actively engaged, so we will ensure the process and the timings of this process are defined in conjunction with landowners to ensure a viable outcome," he said.