A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to talk with the Commissioners at the hearings on Plan Change 10 that wound up back in May. Your stories made an impression, highlighting how catchment landowners take nutrient issues seriously through their ongoing work. It’s really important to keep putting our individual stories of progress before the policy makers and other farmers. The recently launched video series on good management practices is a great example of this.
The Commissioners report and recommendations will be submitted to Councillors at the Regional Direction and Delivery Committee in Tauranga next Wednesday the 2nd August. This is an open meeting, so come along and listen to the debate. The meeting agenda and the Commissioner’s report should be available to the public 48 hours before the meeting. You’ll find these documents posted here. The Collective has requested an opportunity to address the meeting to request that Councillors defer making any final decisions to allow time for the community to digest and discuss the recommendations first.
The next critical step in the Lake Rotorua nutrient debate is the 2017 science review. The aim of this review is to provide an independent assessment of the science that has been used to inform the development of the rules and identify any information gaps. The Collective has impressed on Council for a number of years that a dual phosphorus and nitrogen approach is key to both lake and farm sustainability. We hope the science review allows a wider view to be taken from this point on.
Battle fatigue pretty much sums up the feeling in The Collective at the moment. We continue to strive to do our best but I think everyone – members and executive alike have temporarily run out of steam. I guess we’re well and truly ready for the Christmas break and we’ll all come back recharged in the New Year and ready for the substantial battle that still lies ahead. The coming months are certainly daunting as we head into the hearings in March. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the executive members for all the hours of hard work they have put in this year.
We have written two letters to the Commissioners requesting a deferral of the hearings until after the completion of the upcoming science review. We all know the science of the lake has changed dramatically since the rules were first conceived. Unfortunately our request to delay these hearings was turned down by the Commissioners. We accept that decision fully and will move on and do our best to prepare, despite our ongoing concerns that the absence of up to date science will mean the commissioners hands are tied to a large extent by out-dated information.
My big disappointment however is that Council lawyers completely misinterpreted our letter to the commissioners, and alleged that we were relying on the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in relation to the science review, as a justification for deferring the hearings. That was simply not what we intended to write and definitely not the case. The MOU simply backs up and adds detail to the rules themselves.
We believed that in view of the imminent science review that the Council themselves have scheduled for 2017, that it was simply common sense to wait for its conclusions. I am therefore saddened that the lawyers have led the commissioners to believe that the Collective were using a MOU, which I personally signed in good faith, as leverage for a deferral. I hope the Commissioners will accept my assurances that this was not the case.
Not only are we preparing for the hearings; we are also working hard on trying to find a way forward – a way for farming to remain commercially viable in the future, under the proposed environmental constraints. We have been inundated by businesses seeking our support and assistance with a variety of technologies and possible solutions that need trialling. We are endeavouring to try and carefully assess all possible options and are focussing on those that we believe are genuinely trying to support us, and those which show real promise and a real commitment to finding a solution. We are in fact already working very closely with several of these stakeholders and businesses, some of which BOPRC themselves are also supporting through their funding. However it should be remembered we are all volunteers, with families and businesses to run outside of the Collective, and our resources and time are severely limited.
It was very disappointing for The Collective to have our commitment questioned by a private business owner in his letter to the commissioners which I believe was an attempt to strong-arm us through the use of undue political pressure. It simply does not follow that just because The Collective did not endorse this business proposal that we do not have a genuine desire to be part of the solution for a sustainable clean lake. No one has a higher financial and emotional investment in solving this issue than the landowners in this catchment.
I hope to put these disappointments behind me and move on in the New Year in a more positive spirit. In the meantime I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a much deserved break
From Gisele Scweizer, Co-Chair of the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective
By now you should have received your voting papers for the local body elections. After reading through the candidates book I was left feeling a little depressed. The councillors who are standing again seem to be promising the world and sadly never seem to deliver once they are elected. Just remember, you don’t have to vote for the maximum of candidates allowed. Be strategic in your voting!
The rural board only had 4 nominations so they were duly elected. They are Bob Martin, Euan McLauchlan, Chris Sutton and Shirley Trumper. They all seem to be very capable people able to represent us for the next 3 years.
The Collective have been busy preparing for the public hearings on PC10. We’re working with Fed Farmers to see if they can run a workshop for us on how to get the most out of the PC10 Public Hearings process. We’ll keep you posted on the date of this workshop though it’s looking like the first week of November. In the meantime, read on for a few tips on how to get ready for these hearings.
From Neil Heather, Co-Chair of the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective