Marlborough Express - Council must open up lines of communication with stakeholders

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When implemented later this year, the Marlborough District Council's Long Term Plan will be in place for the next decade.

Before the final page is signed off, it is important that all ratepayers, stakeholders and key industries in our region have had an opportunity for open, honest dialogue with council and councillors about how the plan affects them. After all, it will be another 10 years before they get another chance.

For this to happen, the timeframes for feedback and consultation between all parties before notification must be realistic.

So far, a full draft of the entire plan, including rules and definitions, has not been laid on the table for everyone to see. There have been Regional Policy Statement draft chapters on the council's website for some time, but, critically this does not include all of the rules and regulations.

In contrast, Greater Wellington put out a draft plan for feedback in September 2014, and gave the community two months to provide feedback. The plan was notified in July, and submissions on the notified plan close at the end of September.

That the same opportunity has not been provided by our council is of great concern to a number of parties, including some of the key players in our regional economy.

Representatives of these key industries – Federated Farmers, Wine Marlborough, the Marine Farmers' Association, the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and the Marlborough Forest Association – have approached Marlborough's mayor and councillors, wishing to engage in clear dialogue about vital management practises contained within the plan.

Federated Farmers have provided written feedback to a draft plan which they viewed in December, but say they were not engaged in further discussion on the matter.

However, Federated Farmers have expressed a number of concerns regarding the complexity of the plan and how practical the rules within it will be for them, particularly surrounding important issues like water quality and management and stock access.

They worry about the fact they have not had the opportunity to comment on the bigger picture: After all, it is their daily working practices on which the plan will impact. Other industries, in fact all ratepayers, could be impacted in ways they don't yet realise.

Once the plan is notified, all parties are bound by a legal process. Any challenge to rules within the plan will cost time and resources: Is it not sensible, then, to iron these potential issues out before notification?

It is my hope that communication between those at governance level and our key industries – in fact all ratepayers - is opened up with regards to the District Plan Review by placing a full draft on the table for all to see, with ample time for response from both sides. 

It is imperative our councillors take leadership on these important matters.

As ratepayers we want a plan that will last us and stand the test of time.