Settlement reached on Mackenzie Basin land-use change

Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Report published

The Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Report, was published earlier this week on Tuesday.

The review looked at how the government agencies involved in the Basin could work together to achieve better environmental outcomes.

Land Information NZ, Environment Canterbury, Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils, and the Department of Conservation commissioned the report in response to calls for more joined-up oversight and management of the area. The Mackenzie Basin is currently under significant development pressures that are having a dramatic impact on the Basin’s fragile ecosystems and landscape values.

The report’s key conclusions included the need to:

  1. Develop a clear statement about the on-going relevance of the Vision for land use in the Basin as articulated within the Mackenzie Agreement: We found that with very few exceptions, all parties we talked to provided support the Mackenzie Vision and saw it as having on-going relevance. This is because it recognises all the values expressed in the Basin, including the desire to support a prosperous and sustainable local community and the responsibility shared by all parties with an interest in the Basin for restoring and maintaining its natural assets. A preferred future for the Mackenzie Basin will only be achieved if it is backed by strong ‘social capital’ i.e. the community support capable of being led by the Mackenzie Country Trust, alongside the commitment of statutory land management agencies.
  2. Undertake a stocktake of all the various legislative and regulatory functions (with associated policies) held by LINZ, DOC ECan, and Mackenzie District and Waitaki District Councils, and how these could contribute to the Mackenzie Agreement’s Vision: Early in the report we provided information about the legislative and regulatory functions of the five agencies with statutory responsibility for land and water management in the Mackenzie Basin. If the actions recommended in table three are adopted, we see the legislation and regulations playing a key role in achieving the Mackenzie Vision.
  3. Express the opportunity that exists to align these legislative functions, and how such an alignment might be achieved within existing statutory constraints: Table three lists the actions that could be taken to align legislative functions. Critical amongst these suggested actions for alignment are such things as: staff sharing; convening an officer clearing house; sharing technical experts; developing a joint monitoring programme, and; developing a common data set and related maps. In addition, we recommend ways that the Land Act, the CPLA and the RMA can be used within existing rules (some of which under the RMA are new) to improve outcomes for land management by providing clarity and certainty for land owners/managers and at the same time achieve the objectives of the Mackenzie Vision.
  4. Identify appropriate areas with intensification potential: The report stops short of expressly identifying areas with intensification potential however it clearly notes that with the publication of the Mackenzie District Plan and ECan’s Plan Change Five, plus the on-going progress with tenure review, two actions may now be undertaken. The first is the Crown clarifying what it may seek to achieve with the remaining tenure reviews. The second is to suggest a report be prepared summarising all elements with effect on land use intensification opportunities and constraints drawing on research currently being undertaken by Our Land and Water Science Challenge on land use suitability.
  5. Develop a shared understanding of what a “Dry-lands park” could be, and how each agency’s functions could contribute to its development: The report notes the lack of progress in creating a Dry-lands Park and the reasons for this. Nevertheless, the report concludes the idea of protecting the full range of ecological systems and landscapes is an essential part of the Mackenzie Agreement. A core finding relates to the creation of a Mackenzie Dry-lands Natural Heritage Area. We think this idea has considerable merit. It is achievable, but it will require a clear action plan and discussion with affected parties before it can be put into place.
  6. Suggest a more effective interface between the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and the Resource Management Act 1991, noting that solutions could exist in policy and operational contexts as well as through the alignment of current work programmes. We noted recent good progress on information sharing between the five agencies. We recommend fine tuning of operational procedures to achieve greater alignment between the discretionary consent applications sought under the Land Act and related consent applications for similar activities under the RMA.
  7. Describe a “better public services” approach to working in situations with jurisdictional overlap: The report concludes the benefits arising from achieving ‘greater alignment’ between the agencies with statutory responsibility for land use management are clear. Many actions are summarised in table three through which these benefits may be achieved. We would encourage agencies to commit to making decisions within the first half of 2018.

The report was prepared by independent consultants John Hutchings and Hugh Logan.
Click here to read the full report.