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The Mackenzie Basin – Opportunities for Agency Alignment – reviews identifies opportunities and challenges facing the agencies and their community in the future management of the iconic region.
Environment Canterbury (Ecan) chief executive Bill Bayfield says the regional council, DoC, Land Information New Zealand and the Mackenzie and Waitaki district councils are seeking ways to better work together for the benefit of the basin, its environment and the people who live there.
“There has been substantial change in the basin,” Bayfield says. “Not everyone is happy with it. Changes in natural character, landscape, biodiversity and biosecurity, and water quality are all issues, as are the ability to develop businesses and the rules and consent framework.”
The five agencies jointly commissioned the project to identify opportunities for better alignment between them. The report was released at two public meetings in Tekapo and Christchurch last week.
The report’s joint authors, environmental consultant John Hutchings and Land and Water Forum chair Hugh Logan, say the Mackenzie Basin has been subject to extensive land use change for 15 years.
“The land tenure review process is viewed by some as contributing to the problem. The slow pace and the variable success at which agencies have attempted alignment may also have contributed to the problem,” the report says.
“Biosecurity challenges continue. Risks to water quality require ‘front- foot’ action. Consent processes are viewed by many as not being as streamlined as they could be and above all else some parties believe there is a lack of balance between pastoral intensification (and associated private property gains) and the protection of ecological and landscape values.”
The authors make seven main points, including a need to state clearly the relevance of the 2013 Mackenzie Agreement, and to “stocktake” the various bodies’ statutory and regulatory functions.
They call for the agencies to identify appropriate areas with “intensification potential,” and for the creation of a Mackenzie Drylands Natural Heritage Area, an idea with “considerable merit, and achievable,” but needing “a clear action plan and discussion with affected parties before it can be put into place”.
But people from environmental groups attending the Christchurch launch criticised the five bodies for their past performance.
Forest & Bird Canterbury West Coast regional manager Jen Miller said the five agencies were responsible for the basin’s current state, saying it had received “all the intensification but none of the protection”.
She was concerned at the lack of urgency.
The Environmental Defence Society’s Gary Taylor says while he supported the report, “good intentions were not going to be enough. The vision is getting away from us.”
Taylor welcomed the report’s calling for better regulatory co-ordination instead of the “compartmentalising” of the past.
“People go in and they get their consents, brick by brick, and suddenly you’ve got an ugly structure that you didn’t really expect would be there, before your eyes. But they’ve got the approval.”