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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Holding my feet to the fire

Plan change secrecy criticised


An Environment Southland councillor has hit out at the regional council's secrecy around its proposed plan change to new dairy farms, forcing the council's chief executive to explain its actions to the public.

Councillor Robert Guyton yesterday criticised the regional council for its secrecy over the proposed dairy farming rules after the council remained quiet on the deliberations last week.

Environment Southland had been scheduled to discuss the 40-plus submissions on the proposed changes to the regional water plan - plan change 13 (new dairy farming) - last Thursday.

After requesting an update on the deliberations The Southland Times published an article at the weekend saying deliberations had not yet concluded.

Cr Guyton said he felt uncomfortable the public was fed such a simplistic answer and a reason should have been given on why the deliberations had been delayed.

"I feel there's an obligation for the council to be more open. I think it's a disingenuous answer," he said.

In his blog at the weekend Cr Guyton says the discussion during last week's public-excluded meeting should not have been secret.

"A reason for the ‘lack of conclusion', a transparent explanation for the delay, should be provided for the public," the blog says.

The Southland Times yesterday asked Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips for an explanation, and he replied several hours later, saying the deliberations had been put on hold while the hearing panel considered additional information provided by a submitter.

Environment Southland staff were now evaluating the additional information and its relevance to the proposed plan change, he said.

Mr Phillips said deliberations on plan changes were normally considered with the public excluded and the decisions and their rationale were released at the end of the process and subject to appeal to the Environment Court.

If the plan goes ahead, all new dairy farm conversions will need to obtain resource consent before becoming operational.

New applications would require a farm management plan, which would include a soil assessment, a nutrient management plan and a winter grazing plan.

Environment Southland will discuss the plan change 13 deliberations at its council meeting tomorrow at 9.30am.

- © Fairfax NZ News

(Tomorrow's meeting should be a good one. There will be councillors lining up to congratulate me on my integrity :-)

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