Financially stable Horizons Regional Council but Councilors will be busy

The Horizons Regional Council is set for a busy three years, primarily due to government reforms and policy directions.

Nicholas McBride / Stuff

The Horizons Regional Council is set for a busy three years, primarily due to government reforms and policy directions.

People who want to have a say in environmental management in and around Manawatū will have plenty to do.

Government regulations, climate change, and the seemingly never-ending saga that is the One Plan will keep the Horizons Regional Council busy in the next quarter.

But at least the council, which covers from Whanganui to Tararua and from Ruapehu to Horowhenua, is not at risk of bankruptcy.

Horizons chief executive Michael McCartney laid out the situation in the council’s pre-election report, a document that all councils must write to ensure those running for office are aware of the state of play. before the October elections.

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Horizons will have new councillors, with Nicola Patrick, based in Whanganui, stepping down before the end of the term to take up a position in Wellington and two new Maori wards – Raki Māori and Tonga Māori – each having one seat.

Horizons one-term councilor Weston Kirton is running for mayor of Ruapehu, a position he previously held before moving to Horizons.

The board is on a fairly solid financial footing, anticipating no deficits by 2026.

But advisers will be extremely busy, mainly due to changes in government.

New national policy statements for freshwater and urban development, as well as a long-awaited statement for native biodiversity, have given Horizons a much larger workload.

Upcoming changes to the Resource Management Act, as well as local government reform, will also give the council work, McCartney said.

“In addition to the reforms mentioned…our priority areas have been and will continue to be freshwater, climate change, biodiversity and the accessibility of our data and information.”

The council must also come up with a revised One Plan – the document that guides resource management in the Horizons area – by 2024 due to the government’s national policy statement for freshwater management.

The statement put in place many new rules, many of which impact farmers, which also change the way Horizons handles consents.

Although not mentioned in Horizons’ pre-election report, the single plan calls for more changes to come.

The part of the plan dealing with nutrient management and leaching into waterways has been mired in legal challenges for years over the way the rules have been enforced.

Some changes have left 245 farmers, including all but one of the 50 vegetable growers in the Horizons region, unable to obtain resource consents.

Plan changes approved by commissioners, which would allow most of these farmers to obtain consents, are currently being appealed to the Environmental Tribunal.

The fact that Overseer, the program used to measure nitrogen leaching, was found in 2021 to be not fit for purpose only compounded the problems.

According to the Horizons website, no potential adviser had come forward as of Sunday afternoon.

People have until August 12 to apply.

Elna M. Lemons