Trust proposed to complement Lake Rotorua land use rules

Trust proposed to complement Lake Rotorua land use rules

3 February 2016,

Landowner interests and economic growth must be protected and supported alongside efforts to restore lake water quality, says Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick.

She has shared plans for a new trust to complement land use rules being proposed to help improve water quality in Lake Rotorua.

The trust would support landowners and the district’s economy, as well as lake restoration, attendees at the Lakes Water Quality Society’s annual meeting on Monday were told.

The mayor’s statement was read to those in attendance by deputy mayor Dave Donaldson, in the mayor’s absence:

Rotorua Lakes Council is committed to improving water quality. However, we also need to ensure our district’s economic growth and sustainability don’t become collateral damage.

Your group started the journey to improve our lakes and I remain as committed to it now as I was when you came forward to lobby for an enduring solution.

Much progress has been made since then but for some time now our council has been very concerned about the potential impact of an approach using land use rules and Nitrogen buy-down alone – as proposed for the Lake Rotorua catchment.

We have shared these concerns with our Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme partners – Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Te Arawa Lakes Trust – and we have urged those working on the programme to do further work on assessing the economic impact on our district.

We have also proposed establishing a Lake Rotorua Protection Trust to support not only lake restoration, but also economic growth and landowner interests. This would work alongside the rules and would need to incorporate the incentives programme, providing less complicated, less bureaucratic and more independent support, with a focus on land use solutions and maximising opportunities – a single go-to Trust for land owners providing advice, support and incentives.

We see this as a local solution to a local need, supported by experts in the wider region and the Ministry for the Environment. What’s good for Rotorua and the lakes is good for the wider region.

While we support a rules approach to achieving water quality, we also need to protect the economic wellbeing and sustainability of our communities.  We cannot have one without the other.

We don’t believe the proposed rules and incentives will, on their own, adequately consider the likely social and economic impacts. So we have proposed the establishment of an independent trust that will provide the support and leadership our rural communities need.

Landowners will be dependent on the quality and availability of advice and support to help them make good decisions. We have proposed a more integrated model that would deliver independent, joined-up advice and support.

Our proposal was endorsed in principle in December by the lakes programme strategy group – which is made up of representatives from the partner organisations and the Ministry for the Environment.

Our proposal then went to the regional council for endorsement and support in principle. However, regional councillors have let it lie on the table and have requested more detail, so our staff and regional council staff are now working on that, to present to our two councils.

In the meantime, the regional council’s Regional Direction and Delivery Committee has adopted the proposed land use rules for notification in February but that won’t prevent us from continuing to work on further development of our proposal for a Lake Rotorua Protection Trust.

We believe a similar model to that which was set up in Taupo could provide the flexibility, focus and administrative efficiency needed to better support landowners. It would be a good vehicle for enabling us to consider the social and economic impacts and work on solutions and improvements.

So we’re continuing to work through the questions the regional council had about our proposal and will be talking to them again soon. We are resolute that this balanced approach to support and economic growth is required.

We need to make sure we get this right because the risks of not doing so are just too big for the Rotorua district.

Our council will continue to work behind the scenes to advocate for change in the lakes programme to ensure landowners and economic interests are given due consideration, whatever is ultimately put in place.

We’re ahead of the game with the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme and I hope we can find a local solution quickly – it’s in our interests to do so.