It's a dog’s breakfast. That’s how Bruce Gordon, chairman of Horizons Regional Council (HRC) in the lower North Island is describing the One Plan as it’s been handed to them by the Environment Court.
The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Fish and Game (FAG) challenged Horizons’ implementation in the Environment Court and the court agreed, saying it was unlawful.
At this stage, 46 consent applications now being processed by the council have effectively been rejected because Horizons doesn’t have a plan to deal with them because of what the court has now ruled.
The council can now only say that the court’s decision does not apply retrospectively, meaning any previous consents are okay. But even this view is being questioned by EDS spokesman Gary Taylor, who says if the process of granting those consents wasn’t lawful it casts doubt on them. He says the council may need to look at this and other issues.
The court’s decision has taken Horizons by surprise; others aware of the issues are aghast at the decision and wonder whether a workable implementation process can be found that is legal and meets the needs of farmers, commercial growers and EDS and FAG.
Rural News understands Horizons now doesn’t know what to do. The council is asking people who have applied for consents to withdraw and be refunded their application fee.
The council is also telling farmers that any future consent lodged must be robust enough to meet the new standards, but it can’t say what these will be. In essence the consents process is paralysed and there is no obvious solution in sight.
There also appears to be problems with the use of Overseer, which could affect consents for commercial growers in Horowhenua.
In addition, the Environment Court seems to be saying it is not interested in practicality or reasonableness and has held that consents should be made on numbers alone.
Horizons may reasonably conclude that the court seems to have little interest in whether a farmer will go bankrupt if a consent application is declined. The court says in its judgement that the economic circumstances of an individual should not be a consideration.
“That is not a reason to manipulate or pervert plan implementation” the court says.