A draft Covid-19 economic recovery strategy for Rotorua has been created, but some district councillors have criticised it for not emphasising the rural sector enough.
The economic development strategy framework was developed by Rotorua Lakes Council and was introduced as having been "created as a blueprint for economic recovery and longer-term growth in the district".
The strategy was presented to the council on Friday afternoon at its last meeting of the year, where councillors were also presented with the recommendations of the independent hearing commissioners on Plan Change 3: Significant Natural Areas.
The strategy lays out agreed priorities: "A place of choice" - which relates primarily to tourism, "The future of forestry" and "Ready for business".
Councillor Peter Bentley was the first to point out the draft strategy "makes virtually no reference at all to the rural sector".
The document does not mention the words rural, farm or agriculture.
Council strategy manager Jean-Paul Gaston, who presented the strategy to councillors, said one of the things highlighted in the document was that the Rotorua district had "quite a diverse economy".
"What we've focused on here are what are the priority areas that, collectively, we need to see either transformation or there's an opportunity to specifically impact.
"The rural sector is extremely well coordinated themselves, and are able to adapt and change and move forward successfully.
"Whilst there's these opportunities for those sectors to work successfully on increasing their productivity, and growing - which we're not marginalising at all - there's also the limits and constraints of our district around nitrogen."
Councillor Tania Tapsell said it had also "raised some alarm bells ... that farming hasn't been included".
"We've had these discussions previously that compared to the tourism sector and the forestry sector they have been doing well, but as mentioned … the district's dairy payout for 2021 is expected to be $17.8 million lower than the last season so I don't think we should put them to the side.
"I'd like to hope that at least in the Long-term Plan we're considering how we can support [farmers]. 'Rotorua: The future of forestry' should be 'Rotorua: The future of the primary industries' ... they are the backbone of our economy."
Chairing the meeting, Mayor Steve Chadwick said as the document was a draft it was likely to get "that feedback".
Gaston said the council was considering what it needed to focus on and where it would see the "biggest gains from our effort or the biggest necessity to support change".
Councillor Reynold Macpherson said there was a "de-emphasis" on the rural sector in the document and also believed many businesses and sectors would need to "re-conceptualise" ways of doing business "from the ground up".
Councillor Fisher Wang said it would be beneficial for the rural sector, or Rural Community Board, to contribute to the document.
The council agreed to approve the draft strategy, noting it would not be finalised until the three priority action plans were completed with stakeholders.
The council also agreed - Bentley opposed and Macpherson abstained - to adopt the recommendations of the independent hearing commissions on proposed Plan Change 3: Significant Natural Areas (SNAs).
Plan Change 3 considered changes to the maps of significant natural areas and the associated schedule of SNAs in the District Plan.
The commissioners' recommendations were, generally, to adopt the areas identified as significant by ecologists as SNAs, with some exclusions.
Submitters and affected landowners would be notified of the council's decision as a result, and had recourse to challenge the commissioners' recommendations through the Environment Court.
Bentley said he believed "the work that's been done is only half done" and therefore wouldn't support it.
Councillor Sandra Kai Fong asked how much appeals would cost if they occurred, and council senior policy advisor Kim Smith said most issues were resolved through mediation.
Chadwick said she was comforted that anyone who felt "disquiet" about the commissioners' recommendations could appeal them.