Rotorua Lakes Council accused of 'no show' on SNAs

4:52 pm on 23 April 2020

Farmers are "disappointed" after Rotorua Lakes Council failed to independently submit on a piece of government policy they say could result in a six percent increase in rates.

Cow. (file pic)

Rotorua Taupo Federated Farmers president Colin Guyton says the proposals had "triggered serious concern" for his members (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

But the council says Local Government NZ submitted on its behalf and it does not submit on all proposed policy and legislation changes.

The National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) closed submissions on 14 March.

The policy arose as the government's attempt to clarify direction for protecting and maintaining native flora and fauna under the Resource Management Act.

It would require councils to indicate significant natural areas and to manage the protection of those areas.

However, the draft national policy statement has been criticised by some for being too costly and cumbersome for councils to manage and for penalising farmers that are already making conservation efforts.

Rotorua Taupo Federated Farmers president Colin Guyton said his group's analysis of the proposals had "triggered serious concern" as to whether regional or district councils had the resources to meet the requirements of the proposed policy.

He described Rotorua Lakes Council's failure to independently submit on the policy as a "no show".

Federated Farmers made a 200-page submission on the draft policy.

Guyton said costs would vary but preliminary analysis by one council concluded it would be unable to achieve compliance with the time frames in the draft policy, with projected costs requiring a six percent increase in rates, spread over three years, to cover the identification requirements alone.

Guyton had been "disappointed" as he understood Rotorua Lakes Council "very rarely" submitted on central government policy because it was under-resourced, he said.

"Rotorua Lakes Council had plenty of time to prioritise limited resources.

"A lengthy consultation period of over three months was provided by the Ministry for the Environment in recognition that these proposals introduce significant new requirements and will impose significant new costs on councils.

"It is simply astounding that [the council] has pointed to a lack of resources as the reason they didn't submit against a proposal which is going to require significantly more resources to implement."

A Rotorua Lakes Council spokeswoman said Local Government NZ, as the national body for local government, submitted on behalf of its members and had done so for the draft policy in this case.

"National Policy Statements and legislation changes occur frequently and we do not submit on all of these," the spokeswoman said.

The council did not respond specifically to Guyton's claim it had not submitted because it was "under-resourced".

The council had submitted at the end of October on the national policy statement for freshwater management.

Local Government NZ's submission to the government on the draft national policy statement on indigenous biodiversity said the need to do more was clear but it was important to "make sure that the responsibility to respond is strategic and system-wide, not just imposed on councils".

Case studies were provided, but none were from Rotorua. It argued the policy should focus on maintenance of indigenous biodiversity, rather than restoration, and that the government, not councils, be tasked with identifying significant natural areas (SNAs).

"Central Government could play a much greater role in this space by providing the biodiversity system with what it clearly needs: the funding and resources to upscale efforts and halt the decline," it said.

"The draft NPSIB is trying to do too much and goes beyond what we believe to be the core role of councils."

The submission said all 78 councils were members and it represented "the interests of councils".

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