Horizons Regional Council extends timeframe for notifying One Plan freshwater changes

Horizons Regional Council has decided to postpone the notification of the One Plan Freshwater Plan Change from December 2024 to late 2026/early 2027, but will notify earlier if practicable.

Moving the date, however, does not change Horizons’ desire to continue to see water quality improve across the region.
Horizons has been working to implement the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (2020) (NPS-FM 2020), which requires all regional councils to revise regional freshwater management policies. In Horizons’ case, this will result in a notified revision to the One Plan.
Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell says central government moved the deadline all regional councils had to notify their changes from 31 December 2024 to 31 December 2027.
“Central government has also stated it intends to replace the NPS-FM 2020 with a new national policy statement for freshwater management. The new timeframe means we should be able to incorporate any new national policy statement requirements into the notified revision to the One Plan.
“While staff have been working hard to do the work required under the NPS-FM 2020, including significant scientific analysis and direct engagement with communities, there remains a large amount of work to do to ensure we get this plan change right. 
“The most significant delays are the result of needing a considerably more detailed and robust review and reworking of the One Plan’s water allocation framework. This is a large piece of work, requiring measured or estimated water use records from consent holders, estimating the current Permitted Activity allocation of water to give a more fulsome picture of the amount of water taken from rivers, streams and groundwater, and revisiting some methodology studies which inform existing allocation limits.
“There is considerable science and policy work we need to complete and review to fill information gaps and support policy development and subsequent plan drafting. This includes delivery of regional economic modelling, farm scale economic modelling and social impact assessment work, much of which requires engaging experts who are in demand across the country as every regional and unitary council goes through this plan change process.
“Moving the notification date also gives iwi, hapū, primary industries groups and others in the community more time to give feedback, something which we have heard has been challenging under the current timeframes. 
“The delay could also give us the chance to align the freshwater plan change with a review of other parts of the One Plan. This would be beneficial as there is a need for the One Plan to be reviewed.
“Moving the date will help us to have a fulsome, complete and robust plan change. We will, however, regularly review this work and bring forward the notification date if we can.”
While some people may be disappointed at the date change, the driving factors behind the NPS-FM 2020 remain, says Cr Keedwell.
“We still need to respond to freshwater challenges in our region. Stopping the decline of freshwater health and getting improvements in freshwater quality will remain the focus regardless of any framework provided by any national policy statement for freshwater management.
“We will continue to do work to improve water quality, be it planting and fencing waterways, continuing to work with landowners to keep soils on hill country through the Sustainable Land Use Initiative, helping community groups do water quality improvement projects by providing grants, or other initiatives we have.
“We have also committed to having tangata whenua directly involved In the development of the revised work programme.”
For more information about Horizons’ work on freshwater management policy changes, see https://freshwater.horizons.govt.nz.