1 Apr 2015

Ruling on water quality a 'landmark decision'

7:47 am on 1 April 2015

The Fish and Game organisation is hailing an Environment Court ruling on water quality management in Hawke's Bay as a landmark decision which will have implications for other regions.

Hand in water (file photo)

Photo: 123rf

Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Kahungunu challenged the Regional Council's proposal to change the way it manages water quality in its regional plan.

Fish and Game environmental manager Corina Jordan said Judge Thompson of the Environmental Court had rejected the Council's approach to manage the overall quality of water by allowing a decline in some areas to be balanced out by an improvement in others.

"This is hugely relevant to the debate that's been happening in New Zealand at the moment and also in the reconvened Land and Water Forum about how we manage to environmental limits and what does 'maintain and enhance' actually mean.

"And what [Judge] Thompson said is that regional councils do not have the ability to allow one site to degrade, even if they have the intention of improving another site, that that's against the requirements of the Resource Management Act."

Ms Jordan said the Environment Court's decision was significant because other regions had been considering a similar approach.

"We're really concerned because we have similar approach happening down in Canterbury. Also, we've got other regional councils that are developing their second generation plans that deal with water quality issues like Waikato and Taranaki and there were some earlier indications that potentially they were also doing to take that approach - allow for some degradation."

The Regional Council indicated it will be responding to the Environment Court decision today.