Otago Regional Council (ORC) has proposed a plan change to the Regional Plan: Water for Otago for the replacement of deemed permits with water permits, and for the replacement of any water permits expiring prior to 2025.
The plan change has immediate legal effect. This is because it deals with water and under the RMA, any applications for a water permit also have to give consideration to a plan change.
The ORC has taken this action because it believes it will have a new Land and Water Plan in place by 2025, and does not want to issue any water permits that would undermine the intent of that new plan.
Key concerns for horticulture are:
- Lack of technical assessment informing the proposed plan change
- Short six-year term for replacement water permits
- Replacement water permits would be issued based only on the average amount of water used and recorded during the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2017
- No further irrigation of land beyond that which was irrigated in the 2017-18 irrigation season for the entire Otago Region.
These factors combined mean that the proposed plan change has an immediate impact on horticulture in the Otago Region.
EPA – Call In
The ORC was advised on 8 April 2020 that the Minister for the Environment has called in the Water Permits Plan Change (Plan Change 7). This means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will now manage the plan change process and all submissions will be heard by the Environment Court in the first instance. There will be no Council hearing.
The Council’s submission period remains open, and submissions are able to be lodged until 5pm on Monday 4 May. All submissions received by ORC will be passed on to the EPA.
Because the process has been called in, the EPA will renotify the plan change by issuing a Notice of Direction and calling for submissions. All submissions will be collated and summarised. The date of notification by the EPA is not yet known. More information will be provided on the EPA process when it comes to light.
HortNZ is working with other industry groups and are preparing an industry submission in the best interests of growers. Click here for more information.
If you have questions, please contact Rachel McClung, Environmental Policy Advisor – South Island, email@example.com or 027 582 7474.