Committee is broken – advocate

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

The Hurunui District Council has been challenged to withdraw from the Hurunui-Waiau Zone Committee.

Rural Advocacy Network (RAN) chairman Jamie McFadden questioned the local authority’s involvement in the committee during its recent council meeting.

He asked why the council remained a member of the Environment Canterbury (ECan) committee, which has the task of carrying out the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

It had shed stakeholders, lost community confidence and was delivering poor planning outcomes, Mr McFadden said. He said it was “broken”, and Plan Change 1 to the Hurunui-Waiau River Regional Plan (HWRRP), notified last week, was a “failure”.

Attempts to address issues in the HWRRP through the plan change, including the 10 percent rule which had affected dryland farmers, had created more inequities, he said, and the collaborative effort to find a path for all stakeholders to have a say had fallen woefully short.

The plan-change process had created division and disquiet with organisations, farmers and residents. Those who had walked away from the table now included his own organisation, Mr McFadden told councillors.

The network has a mailing list of around 170 farmers and rural businesses. It was formed to provide greater support on rural issues in the Hurunui district and greater accountability of regulatory authorities.

“There is a complete loss of trust in our community of ECan. No-one in the dryland sector wants to go on the zone committee because it is seen as a waste of time.”

“Forest & Bird are gone, Fish & Game too. And now us. Collaboration does not exist.

“The zone committee/ECan scenario comes at a considerable cost while
failing to take the community with them. It is broken.

“Everything is controlled by ECan to the point that the Hurunui council
representatives were not invited to a meeting between other zone committee
members and ECan staff.”

Issues with ECan are many and serious, he says, and there is a culture problem in the organisation which is affecting Hurunui residents and leaving some feeling persecuted.

Some farmers became anxious leading up to weed and pest inspections, lacked sleep and suffered hot sweats, because of the way they were
treated.

The riverbed issue, which impacted many, was before the courts, and BRIDGE, a collaborative process to try to sort riverbed boundaries and braided river environments, had been abandoned.

He said there had been a line of communication between RAN and ECan, but
this had broken down when a staff member left. Attempts to re-engage with ECan had failed and RAN was now just “fobbed off”.

Mr McFadden says, despite what is reported in the media, farmers are doing a huge amount of environmental work and plantings to protect water resources.

He was backed up by Linda Murchison, a past-president of North Canterbury
Federated Farmers, who is a farmer and an environmental planner.

She told the council that many in the community were not brave enough to voice their opinions.

Threats about speaking out had been made, including defamation hearings.

This treatment had prompted her to come along in support of RAN. She had worked for ECan for a long time, she said, and was deeply concerned about what was happening.

“Something is broken. We cannot fix it on our own. We need the Hurunui District Council to help us to move back together, instead of being threatened with legal action and expensive court cases.”

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley said at the meeting that the zone committee had decided to review itself, the way it operated and its effectiveness.

Also, the council would meet with the full regional council where some “pretty frank discussion” would be had.

He said tensions would always exist in the collaborative process, but there needed to be give and take for it to be effective.

“The issue with collaboration is it doesn’t give everyone what they want.”