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Healthy Rivers Wai Ora hearings panel to hold economic and science information forums

The Healthy Rivers Wai Ora hearings panel will be holding a series of information forums in November on the economic and science modelling used in developing the proposed new rules.

The forums will be run by independent expert facilitators ahead of hearings due to kick off around late February next year.   

All submitters to Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora: Proposed Waikato Regional Plan Change 1 and the subsequent Variation 1 are due to receive a preliminary notice of these forums.

This will ensure all submitters are aware of this process and its likely timing, as well as enable them to coordinate any expert witnesses they intend using and to consider what issues need to be addressed, said independent hearings panel chairperson, Greg Hill.

“This will be an informal opportunity for people to discuss, understand and perhaps resolve differences they might have around the economic and science modelling.”

At this stage, it is intended the forums will be held in Hamilton over three days, if required. The number of days needed may change, said Mr Hill, depending on how many submitters are in attendance and what issues are raised.

The five member hearings panel comprises Mr Hill, with Greg Ryder, Basil Morrison, Trevor Robinson and Sheena Tepania.

The panel is 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.

It is expected hearings will formally begin in late February 2019, and could take four to six months to complete.

More than 1000 submissions were received on the proposed plan change and variation, with further submissions closing on Monday 17 September. Sixty-nine further submissions, a written statement that allows the public to support or oppose other people’s submissions, were received by the deadline.

Waikato Regional Council’s science and strategy director, Tracey May, said the further submissions would be summarised by staff and be considered, with the original submissions, by the hearings panel.

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).

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