The Waikato Regional Council (WRC) should withdraw the entire notified Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 to allow full and proper consultation, rather than slicing up the region, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.
“The WRC has announced a deal with the Hauraki iwi authorities to allow consultation with them that seems to have been missed until now,” Chapman says. “To now start splitting the Waikato up for extra consultation while the neighbouring area remains in the process is flawed, and unfair to the growers and the community.
“To allow this partial consultation puts our vegetable growers in the Pukekohe area at an enormous disadvantage. There will be growers whose properties are divided by this new line of consultation which will see part of the area withdrawn from the plan change for now. That is totally unfair.
“We are calling for the WRC to withdraw the entire plan immediately and re-notify once the necessary consultation has taken place. On behalf of growers, we are considering legal options, such as a judicial review of this process, and we will be instructing our lawyers accordingly.”
Brent Wilcox, chair of the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association, says this action by the WRC is putting vegetable growers in a precarious position.
“My business is one affected in that I will have different properties on different sides of this very divisive line. So part of my business will be operating under different rules to the other parts. This makes no sense,” Wilcox says.
Chapman says HortNZ wants to make it clear it supports the objective of cleaning up the Waikato and Waipa Rivers and all the tributaries.
“The bulk of our growers in the area are inter-generational family businesses who have been custodians of the land for more than 100 years in some cases,” Chapman says.
“But it is important to note this is an 80-year plan and you cannot clean a river up overnight. So what we are asking is that due consideration and consultation goes in up front of the plan to ensure it can meet its objectives, without crippling the area economically, and without restricting growers’ right to grow and run their businesses.
“The Hauraki iwi authorities have highlighted a consultation issue, but we believe it is unfair for the WRC to deal with their claims and ignore the effect of this option on others. The Waikato River runs through both areas and the plan needs to deal with the whole catchment.”
The Waikato Regional Council has written to those affected and issued a public notice. They have advised that they passed a resolution (on 22 November) that an area generally described as the area in the north-eastern portion of the Waikato River Catchment has been withdrawn from the proposed Plan Change 1 and that means for those with a property located within that area the provisions of the proposed Plan Change 1 will no longer apply to that property at this time. The reason for the withdrawal is to enable Waikato Regional Council to undertake consultation with Hauraki iwi authorities in the area withdrawn.