The five government agencies with statutory environmental responsibilities in the Mackenzie Basin (Environment Canterbury, Waitaki and Mackenzie District Councils, the Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand) have welcomed the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) report released yesterday – Te Manahuna – Mackenzie Basin and Landscape Protection.

On behalf of the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme, Environment Canterbury Acting Chief Executive, Stefanie Rixecker, said the report added considerably to a wide range of valuable information available to the Alignment Programme and all the agencies.

“We are heartened by the authors’ acknowledgement of the benefits and progress of the Alignment Programme and the way the agencies are working together.”

Rixecker said it was reassuring to see that many of the stakeholders and community members we were already working with, were interviewed for the report.

“The authors say our joined-up efforts show considerable will to put things right, and that a number of positive initiatives are underway. However, we acknowledge there is much more to do and the case study provides innovative ideas, some of which we’re already pursuing and others we need to consider further.”

Finding the best way to protect natural landscapes

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) commissioned EDS to investigate whether existing management tools could be used more effectively, or whether new tools were needed, to protect natural landscapes in the region.

Jerome Sheppard, LINZ Deputy Chief Executive of Crown Property, said the report had provided valuable insights into how we could all continue to work together to become even better kaitiaki of this precious land.

“We’ll be working through the recommendations together to see where further improvements can be made and building on the great alignment already happening in the Mackenzie Basin,” he said.

Kay Booth, DOC Deputy Director-General Partnerships, said the report is a thorough assessment of the Mackenzie Basin.

“It’s pleasing to see DOC and LINZ are already working with other agencies on many of the recommendations identified. Nothing beats independent assessment and advice. This report gives us the confidence we are on the right track to achieve positive outcomes for conservation in the Mackenzie Basin,” she said.

Mackenzie District Council Chief Executive, Suzette van Aswegen, said the study had useful content that could add value to the work currently being done by the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme.

Fergus Power, Waitaki District Council Chief Executive, noted that the authors recommend notifying revised provisions for the Mackenzie Basin part of the proposed Waitaki District Plan and giving them immediate legal effect.

“They also consider whether it is appropriate for the Minister for the Environment to call in this Council’s proposed Plan provisions as a matter of national significance under the Resource Management Act to provide a more expeditious processing track,” he said.

An opportunity for a dedicated team

Also recommended is the creation of a dedicated multi-agency compliance team based at Twizel to achieve greater oversight of what the agencies are up to at a national level and additional special legislation for landscape protection.

Power said that the release of this report is “timely” for the Waitaki District Council’s District Plan review.

“The perceived deficiencies outlined are being considered by officers and will be raised with the Mayor and Councillors as draft chapters of the new District Plan are drafted.”

He said the Waitaki District Council is currently intending to progress the District Plan to draft stage this year and beyond, subject to the level of community interest and scrutiny generated, with effective stakeholder and landowner engagement being crucial.

“The Council has recently increased its investment in monitoring and compliance. In the interim, officers will continue to take appropriate enforcement action against landowners who breach the provisions of the District Plan.”

Rixecker said the Mackenzie Basin landscape was one of New Zealand’s most iconic, and must be protected.

“The Alignment Programme will consider the report’s recommendations and will support individual agencies to examine their own feedback. The agencies look forward to working with our Treaty Partner and stakeholders on these recommendations. For example, we are working towards centralised monitoring, compliance and enforcement activities and integrated agency management as suggested by the report and will consider its specific recommendations as we develop these concepts.”

Pioneer programme for kaitiakitanga

In 2017, the five government agencies with statutory environmental responsibilities in the Mackenzie Basin, came together to form the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme. These agencies are:

  • Environment Canterbury
  • Waitaki District Council
  • Mackenzie District Council
  • The Department of Conservation
  • Land Information New Zealand.

The programme is the first of its type in New Zealand and acknowledges the agencies’ kaitiakitanga (guardianship) role to protect the iconic landscape, together with its water quality and biodiversity.

In 2018, the agencies commissioned consultants HenleyHutchings to report on opportunities for better agency alignment. Since then the focus has been on:

  1. Establishing better working relationships, understanding the work each agency is doing, and keeping each other informed of decisions.
  2. Deepening relationships and the Treaty Partnership with Papatipu Rūnanga as mana whenua of the Waitaki.
  3. Improving the Resource Management Act planning and consenting processes across the councils to be more joined up.
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