It’s no secret that this majestic region with its winding coastline, secluded bays, marine reserves and island sanctuaries is internationally renowned for its beauty and diversity. For those of us that are lucky enough to live here, as custodians of the region, we are all duty-bound to protect it for future generations. That’s why the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan is so important.
It took a decade of research for the Marlborough District Council to review the Marlborough Regional Policy Statement, the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan and the Wairau/Awatere Resource Management Plan, in order to create a single resource management document for the district, the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (MEP).
The Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan sets out what people can do on their land and how it may be developed. It also guides how individuals, businesses and the wider community may use public resources such as fresh water and coastal space. For the first time, this single planning document enables the integrated management of all the region’s natural and physical resources.
We caught up with Pere Hawes, Environmental Policy Manager at the Marlborough District Council, to find out how the general public have been involved in the process of bringing this plan to fruition. Pere told us, “The initial review process included significant community engagement. This comprised of focus groups advising the Council over the course of the review, community meetings, meetings with specific sectors, and the release of discussion documents and proposals for community feedback.”
The MEP was publicly notified some eighteen months ago and has since been available for public access on the Council’s website, with hard copies in place at several public locations, or available by individual request.
Opportunities to make submissions on the MEP were open until 1 September 2016. There was broad public interest across all areas, with a total 1322 submissions received. Areas of particular interest included water allocation and use, landscape and natural character, and the coastal environment. Pere told us how the high level of submissions were welcomed by Councillors, as these will ensure that the proposed plan will indeed reflect the aspirations of the community.
The Hearings Panel on submissions, is currently in process, with hearings scheduled to take place until at least November 2018. The Hearings Panel comprises of a mix of Councillors and independent commissioners, all of whom hold a “Making Good Decisions” qualification.
After the conclusion of the hearings, any person that has made a submission on the notified plan has rights of appeal with respect to the Council decisions. The date at which all of the MEP finally becomes operative will therefore depend on the number and nature of appeals and the process the Environment Court uses to determine the appeals.
Of course, once in place the MEP will still be subject to review. Local government rules dictate a plan must be reviewed at least every ten years. After five years, the Council is required to assess and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the operative provisions. The MEP contains anticipated environmental results, which are essentially key performance indicators. The Council will use the results of monitoring relative to the indicators to establish whether the objectives set out in the MEP are being met, and whether Marlborough’s environmental future is being protected in the best way possible.
To stay up to date with the progress of the proposed MEP hearings visit marlborough.govt.nz