Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says he is disappointed by the Waikato Regional Council’s (WRC) delay tactics around a judicial review by six organisations over plans for the Healthy River Plan Change.
The organisations are Horticulture New Zealand, Federated Farmers, Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association, Waikato and Waipa branches of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association, Primary Land Users Group, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
“Since November last year (2016), when the WRC withdrew 120,000 hectares from the plan to enable consultation with Hauraki iwi, our group has been trying to get the submission date deferred, or put on hold, while that important consultation takes place,” Mr Chapman says.
The area removed is not related to a catchment but is an iwi boundary that is across catchments, essentially splitting them and making it difficult for stakeholders to put together submissions. It also unnecessarily complicates the process and causes confusion.
“With the submission closing date looming on 8 March, we once again have to consider legal options, because we are unfortunately getting backed into a corner,” Mr Chapman says.
“We have already gone to the Courts for a judicial review on process, because we believe it makes no sense to close submissions while such a large area remains outside the plan.
“This plan change has significant impacts on our farmers and growers who just want a fair and consistent process so they can get on with growing New Zealand’s food.
“We do not want to have to work through two separate submission processes, and spend a lot of time and money on lawyers and Court processes.
“We have variously written, emailed, tried to talk to council and councillors, and appeared before council meetings. A recent Council meeting saw a decision on delaying the submission delegated from Council to a Heathy Rivers Subcommittee, due to meet this week.
“We are looking forward to a recommendation from that committee to delay submissions.”
“We would rather spend our time and money on implementation of the plan and ensuring sustainably grown food for New Zealanders. But our hands are being forced towards seeking an injunction if a decision to defer the submission date by at least two months is not taken.”