Water focus must remain

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By DAVID HILL

Waimakariri Zone Committee chairman Michael Blackwell has warned that the “environmental crisis” should not take a back seat to the Covid-19 recovery.

Mr Blackwell issued the warning while delivering the zone committee’s annual report to the Waimakariri District Council’s Zoom meeting livestreamed last week.

While the world has changed since the annual report was written, “nothing has changed in the environment, so anything we don’t do now will pass the burden on to future generations”.

Mr Blackwell said it was important the council continued to progress the Zone Implementation Plan Addendum (ZIPA) recommendations, which the council endorsed in December 2018. It is now subject to Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) Plan Change 7 process.

He said many of the recommendations had a timeframe of five to 10 years, so any delay would “push those changes further down the track, so it’s important to maintain the impetus”.

He acknowledged the Covid-19 crisis had changed the world, something Mr Blackwell knows all too well given that he was among retailers on hold awaiting the move to alert level 2 to reopen the family’s 149-year-old Blackwell’s Department Store in Kaiapoi.

“It’s not an easy period for anyone, but you’ve got to manage things and get through.

“But I kind of feel our district is a wee bit used to going through adversities. We take it in our stride.”

Mr Blackwell stepped up as Zone Committee chairman last year, taking over from Dave Ashby who led the committee through the ZIPA process.

The committee’s main focus over the last year has been working on the “non-statutory requirements” of the ZIPA.

“We’ve been working with community groups on planting projects and trying to educate and encourage more people to get involved.”

A controversial approach adopted by the committee is putting the health and wellbeing of water first in decision-making, with human needs second and other uses third, which Mr Blackwell says is a policy direction at both a regional and national level.

“It’s an indication of a direction of travel, even though it’s not in law yet,” Mr Blackwell said.

“The primary focus of this process going forward will be on the health of waterways, because if that is created and maintained you will find your drinking water is of equal standard, eventually, because everything is connected and that is important to remember.”