Items of interest from this week's meetings of the Council's two key Committees, Consents & Regulatory, and Policy & Planning:
The two Committees generally meet every six weeks, on the same day.
Each committee is made up of Councillors and external members, including representatives nominated by Iwi.
Good progress on predators
The ambitious, multi-year Towards Predator-Free Taranaki programme continues to enjoy a hugely positive public response and has hit initial targets in its first three stages, the Policy and Planning Committee was told. More than 6000 traps have been distributed to the public or deployed in reserves in urban New Plymouth, an initial rural knockdown of stoats, ferrets and weasels has been completed between New Plymouth and Mt Taranaki and a virtual barrier is near completion as part of a zero possum trial in the Kaitake-Oakura sector. The programme will be rolled out across the region in stages and aims to boost populations of native plants, birds and reptiles by removing introduced threats. It is supported by more than $11 million from the Crown company Predator-Free 2050 Ltd.
Costly gaps in environmental data
A new report on shortfalls in the national environmental reporting system highlights issues the Council has been concerned about for years, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) report points to large gaps in environmental data that limit understanding and may be leading to poor policies and significant damage to society and the economy as well as the environment. The Committee was told that for many years, the Council had been calling for a nationally agreed set of core environmental indicators and for appropriate funding for monitoring. The Council’s own monitoring and reporting programmes have been designed for regional, not national, purposes, and have been assessed as fit for purpose. The Government’s own reports have acknowledged the problems but so far nothing has been done about them. The Committee was told the Government’s latest freshwater management proposals are “just one example, among many, where inadequate data is leading to poorly designed national policy”. The PCE report also highlights other issues including inadequate resourcing, the content and frequency of the Government’s six-month environmental monitoring report, and the need to incorporate Mātauranga Māori (the Māori knowledge framework). And it says the Government should be held to the same environmental reporting requirements as regional councils under the Resource Management Act.
Taranaki addressing many coastal issues
The latest Government report on the state of the marine environment highlights a range of issues on which the Council is already taking action, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. The report, Our Marine Environment 2019, says priority issues include threats to native species and habitats, the effects of human activity on land and at sea and the effects of climate change. Work by the Council to directly or indirectly address these issues includes provisions in the new Coastal Plan to identify and protect ecologically valuable areas, species and habitats and to reduce the impact of human activities on the coastal environment; ongoing work to improve the health of rivers and streams and thus improve coastal water quality; biodiversity and biosecurity strategies to protect indigenous biodiversity, including marine biodiversity, and respond to pest incursions; significantly reducing coastal point-source discharges; improving coastal environmental monitoring programmes; and fostering community action through its education programmes and other public engagement initiatives such as Curious Minds. The Committee was also told that as with previous environmental monitoring reports from the Government, its latest coastal report promotes a negative view by not discussing the responses being made to the issues it highlights.
Our marine environment 2019(external link) (MfE website)
Coordination the key to biodiversity effort
The Government’s development of a new Biodiversity Strategy is a timely opportunity to ensure the national system is fit for purpose, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. Better coordination, consistent funding and clearer legislation have already been identified as major biodiversity priorities by regional councils, who have urged the Government to establish an effective shared governance model involving all major players. The Committee was told that regional councils make the country’s second largest contribution to biodiversity protection but their pivotal role is unacknowledged in the draft Biodiversity Strategy being circulated by the Department of Conservation. DOC toured a roadshow on the proposed strategy, and reported that its Taranaki event attracted the strongest attendance and input of all the workshops nationally. This reflects the considerable efforts under way by a wide range of regional groups and agencies to protect and enhance Taranaki’s indigenous biodiversity, the Committee was told.
Biodiversity Strategy discussion document(external link) (DOC website)
Waste priorities win support
Priorities proposed for new ‘product stewardship’ requirements to reduce waste volumes have won support in Taranaki, the Policy & Planning Committee was told. The Government is seeking to make producers responsible for appropriate management of their products at the end of their life-cycles, and has proposed six initial priorities: tyres; electric and electronic products; agrichemicals and their containers; refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases; farm plastics; and packaging. The Committee was told that all region’s councils collaborate through the TRC-administered Taranaki Waste Management Committee, and the TRC is particularly concerned about the environmental issues posed by tyres, agrichemicals and containers and farm plastics. In a submission on the proposed new stewardship regime, the Council supported all six priorities, suggested that tangata whenua be involved in designing the product stewardship scheme, and urged the Government not to let the cost burden of any compulsory requirements fall back on local government.