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GWRC RULE CHANGES: Will we sink in carbon?

Federated Farmers Wairarapa says Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] rule changes could turn Wairarapa into a ‘carbon offset’ for Wellington.
Federated Farmers senior policy advisor Liz McGruddy said GWRC’s Regional Policy Statement ‘change one’ [RPS] came about because the central government’s National Policy Statement for Urban Development had required the council to make changes to provide
for urban intensification.
“While they were at it, they decided to throw in these other provisions to do with climate change, biodiversity, and water.”
“The intent and the effect [of the policy change] is to target the agricultural sector.”
She said Federated Farmer’s position on the RPS was that it should not be including anything to do with climate change, biodiversity, and water because the topics had policies underway at central government level.
McGruddy said GWRC was re-inventing Wairarapa as a carbon offset.
The RPS, released for consultation in August, aimed to set targets for the next Natural Resources Plan, including limits on emissions.
GWRC general manager of environmental management Al Cross said the RPS didn’t directly intend to change land use in Wairarapa.
He said some of the provisions covered freshwater management, indigenous biodiversity, climate change, and urban development.
Cross said the RPS would seek policies that promoted planting and natural regeneration, indigenous and permanent forests over exotic, and methods for developing a regional forest spatial plan in partnership with district councils.
It said these policies and methods would aim to curb unconstrained planting of exotic trees on inappropriate land and whole farms being converted into forestry.
“RPS change one does not propose making Wairarapa a carbon sink or turning it into a monoculture.
“Greater Wellington wants Wairarapa to thrive and be resilient with a growing and diverse economy.”
McGruddy said that, through the RPS changes, GWRC was trying to second guess and get ahead of the central government.
“Those matters should be deferred to the full review of
the regional policy statement.”
She said GWRC was one of the first regional councils to “climb into the climate change space”.
McGruddy said a line in the RPS had proposed that regional plans should “avoid changes in land use activities or management that result in an increase in gross greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture”.
She said the use of the word “avoid” took farmers into “prohibited territory”, meaning farmers may not be able to expand their operations.
McGruddy said GWRC chair Daran Ponter was reported as saying he wanted more tools than central government had to combat climate change.
“He wants the power to consent, based on emissions.”
Ponter declined to comment at the time of publication but said he would address concerns in an opinion piece at a later date.
McGruddy said GWRC’s level of ambition when it came to climate change and environmental planning was not matched by any “costed strategy for achieving targets”, nor cost-benefit analysis.
Submissions for RPS change one close on October 14 at 5pm.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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