Part of this is wanting to see a system that is administratively simpler and allows for both local solutions and community-led action so we can support communities, tangata whenua and stakeholder groups in their efforts to look after the environment. Also relevant is the need to manage at least some of our operational programmes at a region scale because issues are not confined to catchments, or simply for efficiency.

Council can take a more holistic approach by looking at how we currently manage our river management and drainage schemes and their wider ecosystems; water, land, plant and animal life, and affected communities. We can think about how we work with them as an interconnected system from the mountains to the sea. This would require a more joined-up approach than our current model, and would include transitioning to an ‘integrated catchment management’ way of working. This way of working would also align with what we believe our communities expect of us. Feedback from our early engagement affirmed our role to care for the environment, that we should be taking a long-term view, efficiency and that we need to deliver better outcomes.

An aerial view of the Rangitīkei River and surrounding land

To achieve integrated catchment management, a lot of work would need to be done behind the scenes to look at how we can improve our systems and processes, what levels of service will be delivered, what rating arrangements would be required, and the best way to report back on catchment work and progress. We’d also need to get extensive community input on what integrated catchment management could look like.

Finally, a component of this would be looking at existing river management schemes to see how they would fit within the new system. In their current form, river management schemes are facing cost pressures due to inflation, loan servicing and insurance costs, and increased costs for damage repairs. As well as this, levels of service are being compromised through climate change impacts. Overall, Council acknowledges that our existing river management schemes are not fit for the future and are at times restricting – particularly as communities increasingly want us to do work outside of scheme areas. A priority goal of integrated catchment management would be to address these issues.

Council is proposing to fund a new work programme to enable the significant and complex planning required for moving to an integrated catchment management approach. It is expected this work programme would take around three years to set Horizons up to be ready to transition to the new integrated catchment management model by July 2027 at the beginning of the next Long-term Plan. The funding for this work programme is outlined as Option 1 and would include three new roles beginning in 2024-25. These roles, amongst other things, will plan for comprehensive engagement with the community and existing river management schemes. It should be noted that the proposed level of resourcing is what Council considers the bare minimum to do what’s required to plan for integrated catchment management, with Council deliberately not investing more in order to balance affordability. Resourcing this work out of existing roles is not an option because it would divert staff from their every-day work and impact on their ability to deliver existing services.

Option 2 is to not proceed with taking the holistic approach from mountains to sea via developing an integrated catchment management model. The implications of this range from losing an opportunity to adjust our current operational arrangements to be better suited to current and future needs related to the impacts of climate change, to not living up to community expectations around what and how we deliver on areas of work that have clear connections. In particular, not proceeding with integrated catchment management means that we carry on with river management schemes in their current form.

*This means that for every $100,000 of your property’s capital value, the value stated will be charged on your rates each year.

**This activity is rated 100% general rate based on equalised capital value.

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