The fifth and final independent hearings commissioner has been appointed to the Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Plan Change 1 hearings panel.
It is Greg Ryder, a Dunedin-based director of Ryder Environmental, who brings freshwater technical expertise to the panel. He joins Greg Hill (chairperson), Basil Morrison, Trevor Robinson and Sheena Tepania.
The panel will be responsible for hearing and deliberating on submissions to the proposed plan change for the Waikato and Waipā rivers, and then making a recommendation to the council.
The plan change is the first step in an 80 year journey to achieve rivers that are swimmable and safe for food gathering along their entire length, and achieve the requirements of Te Ture Waimana o Te Awa Waikato (The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River).
A co-governance approach – involving the regional council, River Iwi and Waikato River Authority – was adopted in appointing the commissioners. Five commissioners were appointed in December 2017 but the council had to undertake a further process to fill a vacancy created as one of the commissioners became unavailable.
Chair Alan Livingston said, “The importance of the proposed plan change means it’s essential this panel has the right mix of skills and legislative knowledge, and I’m confident we have that.
“Mr Ryder has a depth of experience as an expert and a decision maker on both consent applications and plan changes. He is very familiar with the issues in relation to the plan change which are similar to those he has been involved in throughout the South Island. His skills add balance to the hearings panel and fulfil the panel’s need to have a fifth commissioner with freshwater technical expertise to ensure robust hearing decisions,” Cr Livingston said.
The recommendation to appoint Mr Ryder from the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee was backed by the council at its meeting in Hamilton on Thursday, 28 June, who formally approved his appointment.
Mr Ryder’s appointment follows a rigorous selection process and robust evaluation criteria that had been approved by the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee and council.
The panel is required to have experience as independent hearings commissioners and extensive working knowledge of the Resource Management Act (RMA) and The Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River.
Selection criteria also included accreditation for decision making under the RMA and an understanding of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
In addition, commissioners needed to have a proven record of understanding complex resource management issues and a familiarity with the Waikato and Waipā river catchments.
The hearings commissioners bring a robust and balanced mix to the table with special technical expertise in resource management planning, resource management law, rural community and farming knowledge and mātauranga Māori/tikanga perspective.
Hearings for the proposed plan change are expected to commence in late 2018.
Visit waikatoregion.govt.nz/healthyrivers to find out more about Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Plan Change 1.
Dr Greg Ryder is a freshwater ecologist and water quality scientist. Greg has undertaken major investigations into water quality and surface water ecology in relation to a wide range of activities throughout New Zealand.
He is an accredited independent hearings commissioner and has sat on 30 resource consent hearings on applications relating to hydro-electric power development, marine farming, irrigation, water abstraction, stormwater and wastewater discharges. He has also presented expert evidence at council consent and plan change hearings, environment court hearings, and EPA and water conservation order board of inquiries.