The Otago Regional Council (ORC) continues to make progress with their regional water plan, announcing that interim water permits plan change consultations are underway. This interim plan change will “bridge the gap between the expiry of water permits in Otago in 2021, and when a new Regional Policy Statement and Land and Water Plan for Otago will be operative” according to ORC. Essentially an interim plan enables the council to slowly move forward without either getting caught empty-handed come 2021 or forcing a messy, rushed decision without appropriate consultation in order to meet permit expiry deadlines. The changes come after Minister for the Environment, David Parker’s recommendations, forcing headway on slow and seemingly unresolved governance of fresh water management and allocation of resources.
The short-term policy framework is framed around efficiency of time and cost for both ORC and applicants, whilst simultaneously gathering data and opinions that will help shape the later water plan review. The water plan, which will make decisions about future access to freshwater flows, is particularly important for farmers.
Thoughts about the content of the proposed Water Permits plan change can be submitted via an online survey until December 15, 2019, which can be found at www.orc.govt.nz/permitsurvey. In February, the plan change will be notified and the public will be invited to make submissions.