Issue 1: Responding to legislative requirements

As the regional council, there are certain things we are required to do under various legislation. In this Long-term Plan there are a number of activities Horizons needs to undertake to respond to legislative requirements. The impact of these activities range from an adjustment to existing budgets, through to requiring additional people in order to deliver what’s required of us. Because we are legislatively required to do this work, we can only provide options around some levels of service for you to consider.

For this section it must be noted that with a new coalition government in October 2023, there is significant uncertainty about the legislative landscape in the next three years. Changes made by the government of 2024 may affect expected staffing levels and we hope to have further clarity around what that looks like in time to deliberate on and adopt this Long-term Plan. However, much of the work for 2024-25 is not expected to be impacted by the recent changes indicated from central government and will still need to be progressed. Work programmes potentially affected by government’s proposed changes fall in 2025-27 and may need to be adjusted as we learn more.

Regional Pest Management Plan

Horizons has a pest management plan which sets out how we plan to control and manage animal and plant pests in our region. This plan contributes to our community outcomes regarding a thriving economy and healthy ecosystems. The Biosecurity Act 1993 requires us to draft a revised Regional Pest Management Plan by September 2027. This work will occur throughout 2024-27 of the Long-term Plan at a forecasted total cost of $650,000 plus staff time. This is planned to be reserve funded in 2024-25 and additional biodiversity and biosecurity funding will be rated from 2025-26 as outlined below.

*This activity is rated via the Biodiversity & Biosecurity implementation rate, 55% general rate, 30% Uniform Annual Charge, 15% targeted per ha to properties greater than 4ha.

Pressures on our science, policy and regulation activities

Our science, regulation and policy activities are experiencing significant pressure to deliver on legislative requirements within set timeframes. This is due to:

  • increasing environmental monitoring and reporting requirements,
  • One Plan changes, intensifying regulatory complexity,
  • more activities requiring resource consent and monitoring under both the One Plan and existing national environmental regulations, and
  • government reforms.

In order to meet these requirements, we need to create a number of roles in each area.

The Policy, Strategy and Climate Resilience Team fulfils a number of compulsory requirements relating to corporate and resource management planning, including responding to national policy statements, national environmental standards and government legislation. For this activity there will be three new roles in 2024-25 to provide for on-going monitoring, reporting and reviews of the One Plan, and staff resourcing to support iwi and hapū engagement in the policy process. In 2025-26 three new roles will respond to the reform of the Resource Management Act 1991, increase our capacity to engage with tangata whenua, continue to support the development of Freshwater Farm Plans , and further reviews of the One Plan. In 2026-27 two new roles will enable us to meet the increasing requirements related to climate change and additional support for proposed Resource Management Act reform. The budget for these new roles is funded by rates.

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

The Science and Environmental Reporting Team provides expert evidence and opinion within the field of science to support policy development, planning processes and regulation within Horizons. For this activity there will be three new roles in 2024-25 to support work programmes around wetlands, lakes, estuaries and community science. In 2025-26 there will be three new roles to ensure we meet legislatively required timeframes around wetland mapping for the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) and additional support to the biodiversity and biosecurity work programmes. These will support required policy changes and support the regulatory and non-regulatory teams. In 2026-27 there will be additional roles to support the development and implementation of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and monitoring. Additional support to community catchment care groups where requested is also planned. The budget for these new roles is funded by a combination of user fees and general rates.

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

1 Currently partially funded through Ministry for the Environment.

Finally, the Regulatory Management Team fulfils a number of legislative requirements relating to resource management planning including consent processing, compliance monitoring, and enforcement under the Resource Management Act 1991 in accordance with the One Plan, plus providing education and advice to resource users to minimise or prevent activities having an adverse effect on the environment. For this activity there will be five new roles in 2024- 25, seven new roles in 2025-26, and six new roles in 2026-27. This will enable us to be a reliable and effective regulator for our regional community. The budget for this is outlined below and is funded by a combination of user fees and general rates. These additional roles will address the current under-staffing in the regulatory programme, and provide the additional capacity to deliver the increased regulatory workload that results from things such as national environmental standards planned major projects within the region (Ōtaki tō North Levin highway and windfarms) and Freshwater Farm Plan implementation.

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

Regional and district councils are often the “implementation body” of central government legislation – so as central government changes or increases its policy standards and compliance requirements, the burden of costs, implications and implementation falls on local government. It is important to emphasise the increase in required staffing noted above is simply to allow us to achieve “bare minimum” compliance. This level of staffing has been determined by Council to balance what is required with what is affordable for our communities.

Finally, while we are required to do all of the work outlined above, these activities all contribute to our strategic priorities and community outcomes – especially in regards to strengthening relationships with tangata whenua and ensuring our ecosystems are healthy.

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Level of service for highly productive land

Within our Policy, Strategy and Climate Resilience Activity, we are required to make changes to the One Plan in order to implement national policy statements. For the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land 2022 (NPS-HPL), we are able to present some options around what level of service we could offer.

The NPS-HPL requires all regional councils to map land as highly productive if it is a general rural or rural production zone and is predominately classified as Land Use Capability (LUC) 1, 2 or 3 land, and forms a large and geographically cohesive area. The purpose of this mapping is to help inform decision making around managing subdivision and development of this non-renewable resource. While regional councils are responsible for completing the mapping, the process must be done in collaboration with relevant territorial authorities and in consultation with tangata whenua. We are required to notify a change to the One Plan no later than September 2025, to include those maps.

To meet the bare minimum legislative requirements for the NPS-HPL, the New Zealand Land Resource Inventory maps provide the base information. However, following discussions with city and district councils in the region, the desire for more targeted mapping has been identified to help inform decision-making at a property scale for resource consents and plan changes. Three targeted mapping options have been identified below. Option 1 looks at targeted mapping focussing on acute urban growth pressure areas only – this comes at a lesser cost but will only cover a limited part of the region such as Palmerston North and Levin.

Option 2, which is Council’s preferred option, includes targeted mapping focussing on areas in every district where there is urban growth pressure and/or demand for rural lifestyle subdivision. This option puts time and resource into areas where there is defined growth and subdivision pressure. It is most useful to councils across the whole region while not investing more than we need to. It is proposed that the funding for Option 2 is split across the 2024-25 and 2025-26 financial years.

Option 3 involves targeted mapping focussing on land surrounding all existing urban areas (cities, towns and villages) regardless of growth pressure, and is more of a future-proofing approach as it means that information will be available should growth occur in future, though it comes with extra cost.

*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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