In what has been described as a landmark decision for the future of Lake Rotorua, new rural land use rules will be notified later this month.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council today unanimously voted to accept a report and recommendations from the Independent Hearing Panel relating to Plan Change 10.

The decision was part of the regional direction and delivery committee meeting held at Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua.

Plan Change 10 introduces rules for rural properties in the Lake Rotorua catchment, to limit the amount of nitrogen entering the lake from land use in order to improve water quality.

The hearing commission was made up of retired judge Gordon Whiting, Dr Brent Cowie, Gina Sweetman and Rauru Kirikiri.

The panel heard submissions from more than 50 individuals and organisations over 15 days between March 13 and May 4.

Committee chairwoman Paula Thompson said the report was the product of “a very long process”.

Ms Thompson asked the councillors to come with an open mind, and to only make a decision based on the evidence in the report.

Plan change decisions are usually conducted confidentially, however the council made the decision to have the discussion in public due to a high level of public interest.

The public gallery was full, including Rotorua Lake Council councillors Karen Hunt, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and Mark Gould.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council natural resources policy manager Stephen Lamb and
senior planner water policy Rebecca Burton presented an overview of the report and answered questions from the councillors.

Lyall Thurston, Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Rotorua representative, commended the rural community for the “dignity and professionalism” they demonstrated throughout the process.

“I’m comfortable with the proposed plan 10,

[the report] is the most appropriate way to address issues and I support the environmental outcome.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Okurei councillor Arapeta Tahana spoke in te reo Maori and translated it into English.

He said he thought the report was the “right thing to do” for the lake and future generations.

“Interacting with water has always been part of my life, a place of fun, prayer and healing. I want it to continue to have this place for ourselves, and our future generations … I hope that we can all continue to work together, regardless of the challenges, to see this through.”

The new rural land use rules will be notified on August 15, with submitters having 30 working days after receipt of notification of the decision, to lodge any appeal with the Environment Court.

After the meeting Ms Thompson said the council’s decision to formally notify the rules was a “landmark” decision.

The independent commissioners’ report was “extremely comprehensive and robust”, Ms Thompson said.

“The independent panel has been thorough in their considerations and assessment, they had a big job to do and they have done an important job for Lake Rotorua.”

She said the regional council was happy to meet with interested parties on Plan Change 10.

“Equally, we encourage landowners to talk to our land management team about what the Plan Change 10 developments mean for them.

“We are aware that some landowners and farmers are ready and want to move forward through this process, and we have waived the cost for resource consent applications until September 30.

“Our Advice and Support Service is also available to assist landowners developing a nitrogen management plan if required. We are genuinely here to help landowners move forward.”

Due to the fact that councillors Kevin Winters and Norm Brunning both sit on the Lake Rotorua Incentives Committee, neither took part in the discussion and decision making process. The report was unanimously accepted by the remaining 12 members of the RDD committee.