By Stephanie Arthur-Worsop, Rotorua Daily Post, 3 August 2015

Rotorua landowners battling draft rules for nitrogen restrictions have banded together to “show the regional council what can happen when the community flexes its muscles”. In an almost unanimous vote, the 220 landowners present at yesterday’s public meeting agreed to provide funds to bring on board one of New Zealand’s most high-profile lawyers, Mai Chen.

Ms Chen will be commissioned to write a letter to the regional council on behalf of landowners, outlining their concerns around the Lake Rotorua nitrogen rules and a perceived lack of consultation.

“The letter will encapsulate all the problems landowners have expressed and hopefully the council will see sense. If they won’t stop, we’ll go to court but I won’t threaten to sue unless there are plans to see it through to the end,” said Ms Chen.

Speaking yesterday, Ms Chen likened the battle between landowners and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to the fight between David and Goliath.

“It will be a hard fight but if all the Davids clumped together, their combined power will make them stronger,” she told those in attendance.

The meeting was held to answer questions from the community about how the new Bay of Plenty Regional Council rules would affect landowners.

The rules set out how nitrogen discharge allowances will be allocated to individual rural properties in the lake catchment area and are likely to affect all properties over 2 hectares.

Ms Love, who is also the chairwoman of the Rotorua Deer Farmers Association, said a local deer farmer had initially engaged Ms Chen to attend the meeting. The response from landowners to bringing Ms Chen on board was “overwhelming”.

“I am extremely pleased with the outcome to engage Ms Chen in the next step of this process.

“This is about showing the regional council what can happen when the community stands together and flexes their muscles.”

Regional council Rotorua catchments manager Helen Creagh said the council provided the funding for the meeting to allow affected residents to meet and discuss their concerns.

“As the organisers of this meeting are members of Lake Rotorua Stakeholders Advisory Group, they believed they were well informed of the process we are embarking on, and as such requested that the regional council not attend,” she said.

“We look forward to receiving any further concerns that may have been discussed in [yesterday’s] meeting.”