Tagged: Biodiversity

Environment and planning committee meeting (17 November)

Environmental status updates

The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 17 November 2016. Apologies were received from the Mayor for lateness and myself. All other councilors were present.

The agenda included: (1) biosecurity annual report, (2) enforcement policy update, (3) proposed Plan change 64 – update of protected tree schedule, (4) biodiversity report, (5) 2016 air quality report, (6) environment and planning activity report, and (7) chair’s report.

Generally, there were no decisions made other than receive reports and approve Plan Change 64.

Biosecurity annual report

The Council is obliged to report annually on activities undertaken under the Regional Pest Management Plan. This report presented the 2016-17 Operational Plan for implementing the 2012-17 Tasman-Nelson Regional Pest Management Strategy (within an approved budget of $545,000), and summarised the achievements of the 2015-16 Operational Plan.

The Regional Pest Management Strategy (RPMS) contains 62 (declared) pests. These pests are grouped into 5 categories:

  • Total control pests (2015-16 operational budget: $40,000, recast $35,000, actual $35,000) are high risk pests that are of limited distribution or density in the region for which long-term eradication by 2022 is the goal. There are 13 pest plants (8 terrestrial, 5 aquatic): african feathergrass, bathurst bur, boxthorn, cathederal bells, climbing spindleberry, egeria, entire marshwort, hornwort, maderia vine, phragmites, saffron thistle, senegal tea, and spartina. On all known sites, plant numbers have been reduced, but for some pests, new sites have been found and this may extend the time required for eradication.

  • Progressive control pests (2015-16 operational budget: $85,000, recast $75,000, actual $100,000) are pests whose distribution is limited to parts of the region but are unlikely to be eradicated because of their biological characteristics. There are 18 pests (12 plants, 5 fish, and one bird: rook). Generally, the goal of distribution and density reduction is being achieved at most sites. However, ongoing changes within the Department of Conservation, re-direction of funding and staff changes during the last two years have restricted its ability to deal with the challenge of controlling pest fish in eastern Tasman.

  • Containment pests (2015-16 operational budget: $120,000, recast $105,000, actual $100,000) are pests that are abundant in the region. There are 14 pests (4 plants: purple pampas, lagarosiphon, gorse, and broom; 7 mammals: feral cats, rabbits, hares, possums, mustelids; 2 insects: argentine and darwin ants; and one bird: magpie). These are widespread throughout the region and the goal is to stop the spread of these pests to properties that are not infested. The continuing spread of Argentine and Darwin’s ants, despite a significant commitment of resources, highlight the challenges of dealing with highly-organised social insects and the limitations of existing tools. A synthetic pyrethroid spray is being applied in a narrow strip along the margins of footpaths and kerbs. While this slows the rate of spread in urban areas, its effect is relatively short-term and does not prevent re-invasion from neighbouring properties. More information on both ants is located at page 10 of the agenda report.

  • Boundary control pests (2015-16 operational budget: $10,000, recast $10,000, actual $10,000) are pests (mostly common weeds or horticultural diseases), that have been included to stop the spread to land that is free from these pests. There are 8 plants (eg, blackberry, gorse and broom); and 5 horticltural diseases (on apples and pears). Generally, staff have dealt effectively and efficiently with requests for intervention.

  • Regional surveillance pests (2015-16 operational budget: $35,000, recast $30,000, actual $45,000) are pest that could pose a future risk. There are 4 pests (yellow flag, parrots feather, pinus contorta, undaria).

Other budget categories include:

  • Sites of high public value (2015-16 operational budget: $35,000, recast $30,000, actual $10,000). The goal is to control nominated pests on public land.

  • Biological control (2015-16 operational budget: $35,000, recast $30,000, actual $30,000). The goal is to support ongoing research into biological controls.

  • National pest plant accord (2015-16 operational budget: $4,000, recast $4,000, actual $4,000). The goal is to prevent sale, propagation or distribution of pest plants.

  • Education and advice (2015-16 operational budget: $75,000, recast $65,000, actual $105,000).

  • Marine biosecurity partnership (2015-16 operational budget: $20,000, recast $20,000, actual $20,000). Funded by 3 top of south councils ($20,000 each) and MPI ($60,000).

The 2016-17 operational plan covers 62 (declared) pests. The plan includes:

  • Total control pests (budget $35,000)

  • Progressive control pests (budget $100,000)

  • Containment pests (budget $100,000)

  • Boundary control pests (budget $10,000)

  • Regional surveillance pests (budget $55,000)

  • National pest plan accord ($4,000)

  • Sites of high public value ($15,000)

  • Biological control ($30,000)

  • Education and advice ($105,000)

  • Training and education ($90,000).

The 2012 Amendments to the Biosecurity Act outlined the requirements for pathway management plans, which are designed to be used to deal with pathways that may carry pests into new areas. The potential for pathway management is being explored as part of the current Regional Pest Management Strategy review.

Enforcement policy update

Council resolved to receive the report.

The Regional Sector Compliance Framework (RSCF) outlines a set of important principles that are designed to give a robustness to any strategic compliance programme. These principles are: transparency, consistency of process, fair, reasonable and proportional approach, evidence based and informed, collaborative, lawful, ethical and accountable, targeted, and responsive and effective.

These principles are reflected in TDC’s Enforcement Policy and Guidelines which outline the enforcement pathway expected to be undertaken, from discovery of an offence, through to the decision to take enforcement action.

The only significant change to the guidelines is the removal of the original “enforcement option matrix” that was designed assist in selecting an enforcement response along with other factors. This has now been replaced with a compliance pyramid model.

See: www.tasman.govt.nz/policy/policies/enforcement-policies/.

Protected tree schedule update

Council resolved to approve Plan Change 64 (Update of Protected Tree Schedule). The Plan Change was publically notified on 24 September 2016 with no submissions being received.

Plan Change 64 amends the Council’s Protected Tree Schedule 16.13B in the Tasman Resource Management Plan, by removing 10 protected trees from the Schedule. These include: Takaka (2 trees), Riwaka (4 trees), Marahau (2 trees), Richmond (1 tree), and Wakefield (1 tree).

Biodiversity report

Council resolved to receive the report.

The main focus of the Council’s biodiversity work is its Native Habitats Tasman (NHT) Project. This was developed in 2007 following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a number of parties that included the Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers, and Forest and Bird Society.

As at 30 June 2016, 504 sites had been inspected and landowners had signed off on 454 reports. The survey commenced in eastern Tasman lowlands and via the higher altitude sites on the Takaka Hill has now moved into Golden Bay (July 2016). Of the landowners who have been contacted about a site visit and preparation of an ecological report for their property, 70% have agreed. It is anticipated that completion of survey work in Golden Bay will take approximately 2 to 3 years. Current expenditure is $52,000 per year.

A copy of the final ecological district report can be downloaded from TDC’s website at: www.tasman.govt.nz/environment/land/biodiversity/motueka-ecological-districtreport/.

Air quality report

Council resolved to receive the report.

The Richmond Airshed was set up under the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality 2004 (NESAQ).

There were 5 exceedances of the NESAQ for particulate matter (PM10) over the winter of 2016. These exceedances are correlated with complaints and webcam images of outdoor burning occurring in the orchards around the Richmond airshed. The trend in annual concentrations of PM10 has improved over the last ten years, which is due to regulations on household burners, education, and enforcement. The maximum PM10 concentration for 2016 was 66 μg/m3.

A source apportionment study for Richmond has shown 52% of particulate matter is from biomass combustion, attributed to solid fuel appliances in Richmond. A source of arsenic in PM10 was also identified and was not associated with the domestic fires. The annual average arsenic concentrations for 2014 in Richmond was 19 ng/m3, which exceeded the ambient air quality guideline value (5.5ng/m3).

Air Quality PM10 BAM adjusted concentrations in Richmond for 2015-16

Trends in PM10 adjusted concentrations in Richmond

Number of Exceedances of 24-Hour PM10 for Richmond

The sources of the PM10 for Richmond (see Figure 9) were biomass combustion (52%), motor vehicles (17%), marine aerosol (16%), secondary sulphate (13%), and copper chrome arsenate (CCA) (2%).

Average source contributions to PM10 in Richmond (from GNS Science report)

There were 41 exceedances of the global world health organisation (WHO) daily guideline value for the finer fraction of particulate matter (PM2.5) over the period from May to August 2016, with a peak concentration of 46 μg/m3.

Partisol PM 2.5 concentrations in Richmond for 2015-16

The NESAQ is currently under review and TDC will need to review its air quality management provisions when the outcome is known. Based on current trends, during normal winter weather, Tasman District Council may not achieve the current requirements of the NESAQ which is no more than one exceedance per year by 2020.

Environment and planning activity report

Council resolved to receive the report and appointed Mr Mike Fitzsimons to the position of District Licensing Committee Commissioner for a 5-year term of appointment.

Highlights from the manager’s report include:

  • Swimming pool fencing. Parliament has passed law repealing the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and merging the obligation Council has into the Building Act. The main change is a move to mandatory 3 yearly inspections which can be undertaken by Council staff or authorised private contractors. If the latter are involved they are required to pass information on the Council for the property file. Companion changes are also being made to the Building Code with submissions closing 16 December. Spa pools with lockable lids will not require inspection, meaning TDC will no longer have to grant exemptions under a 2014 Council-approved policy. The new law comes into effect from 1 January 2017.

  • National policy statement (NPS) on urban development capacity. The Government has signed off on a National Policy Statement to ensure councils provide enough land for new housing and business development. Tasman is a local authority that has a medium-growth urban area within it, which we share with Nelson City. Having sufficient land for development also means we have to provide an additional margin of 20% for the first 10 years and 15% for 10 to 30 years. Council is required to carry out a housing and business development capacity assessment on at least a 3-yearly basis. The NPS takes effect from 1 December 2017.

  • Waimea nitrate survey. Council has previously conducted groundwater nitrate surveys across the Waimea Plains in 1986, 1994, 1999, and 2005. Council will repeat that survey (sampling around 100 bores) starting towards the end of November 2016.

  • Our waters. Council prepared a State of the Environment Report on river water quality in November 2015 under its reporting obligations under the Resource Management Act. Last year the Council released a movie entitled “Our Waters in Common” as an innovative way of reporting to the community on the health of our water ways. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=81zNEmTCYVY.

  • Freedom camping. This matter was raised at the 27 October Council meeting and an update requested. The Government has indicated that it will review the Freedom Camping Act soon and Council has offered to assist in this review. A review of TDC’s Freedom Camping Bylaws will be undertaken after the Governments review in August 2017.

  • Finances. Generally, at 33% of the financial year completed, expenditure is slightly under budget overall and non-rate income overall is ahead of budget.

Agenda and minutes

the agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/committees-and-subcommittees/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2016/2016-11-17.

Draft minutes are available upon request from TDC.

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Environment and planning (19 November)

Environment and planning (19 November)

The environment and planning committee meeting was held on 19 November 2015. Apologies were received from Cr Edgar. All councillors were in attendance (with Cr Bouillir and Cr Sangster arriving late from their drive over the Takaka hill).

Cr Mirfin noted that the minutes from the last meeting were “a bit light”. I certainly share this concern. This is also a growing concern for a number of residents who show an interest in issues that council debates.

The agenda included: (1) national policy statement freshwater management, (2) private plan change for Wainui Bay (spat catching), (3) Alcohol licensing costs, (4) Food Act, (5) Annual Biodiversity report, (6) environment and planning services activity report, and (7) the chairs report. There were no public forum presentations. Much of the meeting was deciding to receive reports and approve public notification of them. I intend to highlight the main topics of interest.

A confidential (in committee) session was also held in relation to: (1) proposed rural land use subdivision plan change, and (2) building claim settlement. Workshops followed.

National policy statement freshwater management

The Freshwater Management national policy statement (NPS) was first introduced in 2011 and amended in 2014. The Freshwater Management NPS is being progressively implemented with full implementation by 2030. The work programme includes: completion of water allocation and flow management for the Waimea Plains water management zones, establishing community based advisory groups (FLAG groups) to develop water quality and quantity management provisions for Takaka and the Waimea Plains, scoping a land disturbance review )sediment and erosion control guidelines), and mapping of all wetlands.

Concerns were raised about the cost (and progress) of the FLAG groups. Some wondered if it was more cost effective (and timely) to just drive the process through public consultation, rather than engage stakeholders through the FLAG groups. While there was some merit in upfront timeliness, there was always the risk of downstream costs arising through appeal processes.

From my own experience, it is much more efficient to engage (and address issues) before going over the cliff edge, than addressing them on beach (under pressure). It also provides greater community engagement and transparency, as its all on the web to read (see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/environment/water/water-resource-management/water-catchment-management/water-management-partnerships-flags/). That said, it is incumbent on staff to ensure delivery expectations are met and any slippage (or scope creep) is avoided. Which is always hard when dealing with unpaid stakeholders.

Wainui Bay mussel spat catching

Wainui Bay mussel spat catching farms are considered nationally and regionally significant for quality and quantity of mussel spat. The private proposal seeks to extend the current resource consent in Wainui Bay beyond 2024, in order to provide commercial certainty. Council resolved to notify the public of the proposed plan change. The proposal is located on the councils webpage at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-11-19/PrivatePlanChangeRequestWainuiBaySpatCatching.

Alcohol licensing costs

Council is required by law to publicly report the costs of providing alcohol licensing (see Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012). Alcohol charges are set by statute (and regulation). Council is authorised to make bylaws for fee setting (see Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Fee-setting Bylaws) Order 2013), but has chosen to adopt by default the national regulation (see Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Fees) Regulations 2013). This is because it is considered that establishing a bylaw would be a “significant cost” and council is better to just adopt the fees in the regulations.

In my opinion, the fee setting in the regulations could do with some serious fine tuning. Clubs and community events are given higher risk ratings than perhaps seems justifiable and this results in higher fees for these activities. If there is a trade off in the risk rating process, it needs to be for activities that have resulted in public nuisances or offences. This would incentivise greater compliance, or risk ratings and higher fees. Another anomaly is the treatment of online sales. This is something that the government needs to urgently review. Online sales need to be given a separate classification and risk rating in the regulations.

Period: 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015

Total fees received: $197,946.00
Portion of fees passed to central government agency (ARLA) $13,970.00
Fees retained by council $183,976.00
Cost of administration $101,232.27
Cost of inspections $236,070.58
Cost of enforcement $5,5179.66
Total cost to council $342,482.51

Subsidisation by council is: 54% user pays and 46% rates funded. Staff aim to reduce the subsidation ratio to 60:40 through streamlining processes.

Interestingly, Ministry of Justice civil and constitutional unit general manager David King is reported as saying that the reforms aimed to improve New Zealand’s drinking culture and reduce the harm caused by excessive drinking. Mr King stated that:

The new system fairly reflects the cost of alcohol licensing . . . [it] aims to ensure licensing costs are met by the alcohol industry rather than ratepayers, who currently subsidise about 50 per cent, $5.4 million a year, of the system.

Empirical evidence (from Tasman) would suggest that the regulations still result in cross subsidisation of 50% or more. Perhaps its time for the Ministry of Justice to review if the regulations are working?

Food Act 2014 – new regulatory process

The new Food Act 2014 is soon to come into force. The Act provides for the council to provide registration and verification functions (from 1 March 2016). Similar to the Supply of Alcohol Regulations, the Food Act places food businesses into different risk categories which are then to operate under different regulatory controls.

The new feature of the Act is the separation of the registration function from the verification (audit and inspection) function. Only the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and territorial authorities (like TDC) will be able to register food businesses. No change here.

However, verification is being opened to the private sector. This means verification functions can be provided by TDC, or an approved provider (like AsureQuality). Food businesses will either develop their own food control plans or be part of a registered national programme. Most small food businesses will fall under a registered national programme. At this time, there have been no draft templates or examples of national programmes. However, there is nothing stopping a business developing and submitting their own food control plans.

All private providers will have to apply for verification status. TDC is deemed to hold verification status for verifying “food control plans”. However, council will not have deemed verification status for verifying “national programmes”. Instead, TDC will have to apply (like private providers) to MPI for approval and show it has met all regulatory requirements (like a documented quality management system).

The total cost of acquiring approver status has not been determined by MPI yet. Estimated costs are $193.75 plus $155 per hour to process the application. The amount of time to process an application has yet to be disclosed. Staff anticipate that developing a documented quality management system will involve substantial staff time (and cost).

Council resolved not to provide a verification function given the uncertainties and potential cost. In my opinion, it seems strange to deem verification status for councils in relation to food control plans, but not national programmes (where there is likely to be cookie cutter approach).

I would have thought if councils are deemed to be able to verify high risk activities they should also be deemed to verify lower risk activities? The distinction makes no sense, other than it requires councils to incur additional costs. Surely if the council is good enough to verify a high risk activity, it is more than capable of verifying a lower risk activity? Basically, council should be deemed to provide verification services for both food control plans and national programmes. If councils do not offer verification services for small business, the private sector will (in the short term) take advantage and charge higher prices for verification services – hardly business friendly.

Interestingly, MPI’s response to the distinction (from my own enquiries) is that:

Businesses that will be required to operate under a national programme include a large variety of manufacturers that a number of TAs [territorial authorities] have not been working with so it not appropriate to provide automatic recognition to TAs to verify these businesses.”

Adding that:

MPI is considering further the recognition process for TAs that may wish to verify retailers that operate under national programmes and will provide more information to TAs in the near future.

It also concerns me that a new Act is about to come into force and a lot of administrative issues are still being resolved by MPI. This is most unsatisfactory. Especially for councils, who are very conscious of additional financial burdens being placed on them by central government. How can councils be expected to plan for the future if relevant financial information (like fees and costs) have not be resolved by MPI. Again, this is a serious issue that government need to review.

Interestingly, MPI’s response (to my enquiries) is that:

MPI is currently working on the assessment process for councils and other agencies to become recognised to verify businesses under the Act. At this stage we are unable to say how long will take, and therefore what the final cost will be. … we hope to send this information to councils before the end of the year. One of the reasons for this is that we are currently looking into ways that the recognition process could be simplified for councils wishing to verify national programme businesses that they currently inspect under the Food Hygiene Regulations (as mentioned). Councils are automatically recognised to verify template food control plans, so will only need to apply for recognition to verify national programme businesses or custom food control plans.

I will be watching with interest to see how this plays out.

Check out the MPI overview of the new Food Act and compliance tool at www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety/food-act-2014/overview/.

Annual Biodiviersity report

This was an information only report. Generally, council’s biodiversity programme is focused generating reports on lowland ecosystems, mostly located on private land. And involves a district wide survey of natural areas outside of the conservation estate to assess the ecological significance of these areas. The reports are provided to landowners to assist in management of the identified sites. As at 30 September 2015, 469 sites had been inspected with 309 reports generated. Many reports have been used as reference documents when considering planning applications, and policy reviews. Landowners (farming or forestry) have also used them for funding applications for pest control and restoration planting.

Council obtained central government funding ($26,000 per year) through to June 2017, but will be fully funding this work from July 2017 (due to an absence of any external funding). Current costs are $62,000 per year and are planned to reduce to $56,500 from July 2017. It is expected that the remaining ten ecological districts will be completed within the next 10-12 years.

Environment services activity report

Highlights from the managers report include:

  • Shop trading hours. Local authorities will have the ability to put in place a bylaw allowing trading on Easter Sunday. Essentially, the political issue (and cost of consultation) has been shifted to local government. While this delegates the decision making to the regions, it comes at a cost. Ideally, government would have also provided the financial support to implement this shift in decision making.
  • Hearing delegation. Council resolved to appoint a commissioner to hear the proposed Waimea water management plan change and make recommendations to council. This allows council to rehear the matter if it disagrees with all or any part of the recommendations. The council could appoint the commissioner to hear and “decide” the matter. If it did this it could not revisit the decision. From my experience, there appears very little practical difference. Most councilors are reluctant to revisit recommendations due to the cost of a rehearing. Nor are they keen to engage with the affected parties to mediate any compromise over issues that council might disagree with.
  • Building consent fees. The consents team incurred a deficit of $41,661 due to additional costs in meeting statutory timeframes from resource shortages. The increase should address this shortfall. Comparatively, TDC fees will still be lower than Nelson or Marlborough councils. For example, a single story dwelling will now cost $3,394 in Tasman, $3,900 in nelson, and $4,070 in Marlborough. For work below a value of $50,000, fees are now similar.
  • Richmond CBD. The Richmond town centre project was separated into (1) the stormwater upgrade and reinstatement project, and (2) urban density and design (and parking standards review) project. Richmond councillors were delegated with reviewing associated documentation in relation to urban density project. Unfortunately, staff and I were not in full agreement (at our subsequent meeting) on what needed to go into the consultation documents. I had hoped for a map, to show the areas of possible effect (perhaps showing different walking distances). Something that would grab the attention of the public when they were skimming the document. In my opinion, a map would easily let ratepayers know what areas might be affected – and if they might be affected. Instead staff wanted to use text (eg “within 10 minutes walk of the CBD”). Staff reasoned (based on some external advice) that a map indicating walking distances might generate a negative reaction. After some discussion, a compromise was reached to display a map at public presentations (ie at the Mall and Library), rather than on the consultation documents. In my opinion, staff need to be more courageous and transparent – and less scared of receiving negative reactions from the public. The public are pretty smart, and if it’s a good story, will be supportive. It’s about having an honest and upfront culture.
  • Financials. Generally, expenses are operating within budget and income is ahead. In response to my query about the extra wage related and overhead costs, staff advised that it was due to staff working longer hours (and charging extra fees).
  • Rainfall. Total accumulated rainfall appears to be lagging the average. Either, there’s a big rainfall coming, or its getting dryer.

20151119EP-Rainfall-p78

Chairs reports

Cr Bryant advised that a second steering group meeting on a shared “Land Development Manual” was held on 21 October 2015. In his opinion, there are ongoing challenges (and some unresolved matters) to align the engineering standards for Tasman and Nelson. However, he was optimistic of a positive outcome for both councils.

In my opinion, the winners of this process will be both developers and ratepayers – by making it easier and more cost effective for everyone to comply with one set of common standards – certainty should increase and costs decline. This is also another example of a commitment towards a “shared” approach to local government issues.

Agenda and minutes

The agenda and minutes are located at www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-11-19.

Media

Nelson Mail (15 December 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/75082540/Tasman-District-Council-to-increase-building-consent-fees

Nelson Mail (25 November 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/aquaculture/74386525/Wainui-Bay-spat-catching-farms-seek-certainty-with-private-plan-change-request

Nelson Mail (29 October 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/73338768/Community-input-into-Queen-St-design

Nelson Mail (20 January 2016) www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/76363857/richmonds-queen-st-carriageway-in-for-a-full-remake-tdc-says

Nelson Live! (19 February 2016) www.nelsonlive.co.nz/news/2016/02/interest-in-queen-st-makeover/

Dominion Post (1 March 2015) www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/9777663/Small-clubs-say-new-laws-on-liquor-hitting-hard

 

 

Environment and planning committee (29 January 2015)

The environment and planning committee met on 29 January 2015. All councillors were present, except for Cr Ensor, with Crs Edgar, King, and the mayor arriving after the start of the meeting.

There was no public forum.

The meeting comprised the following information reports and items: (1) the proposed treatment of coastal occupation charges, (2) the proposed environmental policy programme and projects for 2015, (3) the state of the environment report, (4) 6-monthly environmental compliance report, (5) 6-monthly resource consents report, (5) dog control update report, (6) biodiversity report, (7) committee chairs report, and (8) the environment manager’s report (which included updating the committee on: a recent coroner’s report, approved plan change 22 for the Mapua-Ruby bay development, freedom camping, warmer healthier homes project, waimea rural fire authority, and TDC’s submission to the productivity commission).

Coastal occupation charge

This matter was discussed extensively at the environment and planning committee meeting of 13 November 2014, where it was agreed by participating councilors that TDC would not implement a coastal occupation charging regime. Staff were directed at that meeting to draft an appropriately worded plan change in accordance with that decision.

Accordingly, the committee unanimously resolved to approve the release of draft plan change 56 which stated that TDC would not impose a coastal occupation charging regime at present. This resolution will subsequently be presented to full council for approval, as all binding decisions of council must be made by the majority of the full council.

Coastal occupation charges are fees imposed on users of public spaces within the inshore marine coastal area and seabed. Effectively, the charges are a rent on the use of public marine spaces and replace the former Harbour Act lease and license regime. For example, the use of the sea bed for moorings, jetties, wharves, boat ramps, cables, pipes, or marine farms, could be charged by council if a coastal charging regime was established by council.

Why would council go through the hassle of making such a statement? Well, council is required by law (under ss 64A and 401 of the RMA) to consider whether it will implement coastal occupation charging regime and make a statement on such a regime. This requires the council to either state in its regional coastal plan that charges will not be imposed, or propose policies and rules for the implementation of such charges.

To date there have been few councils who have taken up the opportunity to charge for the use of the inshore seabed. No doubt this is a reflection of the complexity and cost of drafting, consulting, and implementing such a regime. From my perspective, there seems little net financial benefit for the community in implementing such a regime at this time. Given marine farming in this region is still in its infancy, the money that would be raised from such a regime, would probably only offset the cost of establishing and administering the regime. Such a money go round would benefit no one other than the council administrators. Further, it is far better to reduce (or avoid) any new red tape for businesses – especially when you want an industry to get a good foothold in Tasman, for the greater good of the regional economy.

A detailed evaluation report of the costs and benefits of adopting a coastal occupation charging regime is attached to the agenda (see pages 13 to 30). Interestingly, the evaluation report concluded that all coastal occupations (except jetty,wharves, and boat ramps) had greater private benefit than net public benefit and marine consent holders should compensate the public for the loss of use. No doubt when the marine farming industry become more established (and can afford to pay) costal occupation charges will be revisited by a future council.

2015 environmental policy programme

In the middle of 2014, a number of workshops were held so that councillors could review and prioritise the 34 proposed environmental programmes, that had been identified for consideration under the 10 year (2015-2025) Long-term Plan (LTP). These projects included: mooring and coastal occupation charges, significant landscapes, rural land use, storm water management, urban design, residential zoning, and water quality management. See the agenda (pages 31 to 50) for a full list of all projects and more detail.

The committee resolved to receive the planning manager’s report and directed staff to begin scoping the possible size, cost, and nature of prioritised projects for future council consideration, before any approved commencement of any project.

State of the environment for land and soil

The 2014 report on the environmental state of land and soil (see executive summary at pages 55 to 60 of the agenda) provides an update on the monitoring of soil in various locations of the region.

The report surveyed 6,005 locations for soil erosion and continued to monitor 25 locations (identified in 2000) for soil health, classification type, and mapping purposes. The mapping of soil types will help improve our knowledge of drainage and the required levels of irrigation.

The report has also monitored the changing use of land in the district. For example, between 1996 and 2008, there has been: a 10% increase (9,750 ha) in exotic forestry; 17% decrease (21,152 ha) in pasture; 95% increase (5,266 ha) in horticulture, viticulture, and cropping; 55% increase (1.073 ha) in urban use.

Interestingly, the dairy farming trend in the Tasman region is not following the national trend. Tasman dairy cow stock numbers have only increased by 1.2% (54,580 to 55,227 cows) compared to the national trend of 11% (or 2.56 cows per ha). In Tasman, total beef cattle numbers dropped 33% (56,155 to 42,268 cattle) from 2003 to 2013. For the same period, deer dropped 67% (33,537 to 14,259 deer).

The committee resolved to receive the report (ie, no decision, other than to receive the report, was required).

Compliance monitoring

The report provides a summary of the council’s compliance activities for the first half of the 2014-15 period (ie 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2014) in comparison to the prior 6-month period. For example, the volume and timing of complaints from ratepayers in relation to various activities.

Generally, complaints were slightly lower than the previous 6-month period, with complaints over air, water and land discharges from 2003 to 2013 still dominating staff time. Interestingly, only 5 freedom camping complaints were made. This would suggest that the new freedom camping rules are working well, although there appear to be still a few problems in Motueka (which I will discuss later).

One prosecution was successfully made against Awarua Farms Ltd and Mr Wooley in relation to dairy activities. Awarua Farms was fined $60,000 and Mr Wooley’s sentencing has been adjourned until 4 March in Blenheim. The only enforcement order activity for the 6-month period was made against CJ Industries Ltd (operating in Motueka) due to uncontrolled dust discharges from crushing activities. All requirements of the order have now been met and staff continue to monitor progress.

Stage 1 water rationing was implemented in the second week of December (ending 18 December). Compliance was very good and no infringement notices were issued. Despite the dry start (for the two months up to December 2014), metering shows water consumption figures of less than 50% across all zones. Recent rainfalls have also been appreciated.

All “1080” poisoning operations were extensively monitored by staff (especially given the level of public interest and potential effects). With the exception of one incident in the Lockett area (where some of the bait was applied outside of the designated control area, due to a combination of drop events and terrain), all operations were fully compliant.

Large scale earthworks have been occurring in the Richmond south area (Wensley Road, Fairise Drive, and Hart Road area). While work has been compliant with consent conditions, the work has resulted in a number of complaints from residents. From complaints, I have received, these have mainly been due to the frequency and noise of heavy trucks carrying soil from the development through a well established residential community.

Ideally, the consent conditions should have been consistent with the Olive estate development. Unfortunately, due to timing, the constraints placed on the Olive Estate development (to not use Fairise drive for heavy trucks) was not placed on the Wensley\Hart Road development. Ideally, council should have remedied the problem by enabling the developer to access Hill Street or Hart’s Road directly from when the inconsistency was identified.

Fortunately, my conversations with the developer’s trucking contractor were largely constructive, with the truck contractor agreeing to shift truck movements away from the densely populated Fairise Drive to Hill Street (albeit after 31 December 2014). Thus reducing the impact on the number of residents. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the contractor (and developer) for accommodating the wishes of residents outside of any legal requirement to do so.

Resource consents

There are three different types of resource consent: (1) notified (where all the public are made aware of the resource consent application), (2) limited notification (where only neighbours or those directly affected are made aware), and (3) non-notified (where generally only the applicant and council staff are aware of the application).

The graph below provides a comparative analysis of non-notified resource consents between 2014 and 2012. The graph also highlights how long it took for staff to process the 484 resource consent applications made in 2014. In 2014, only 4 non-notified resource consent applications required a hearing.

E&P20150129-Graph1

The following graph compares notified and non-notified consents for the same periods. It is quite marked that the volume of publicly notified and limited notification consents are very low. The data would appear to indicate that the notification process (ie public or limited) does not appear to have a material impact on the volume of resource consents that council process. Although it is noticeable that the time taken to process these applications is longer than most other non-notified applications (except coastal applications). No doubt this reflects the higher level of public participation in the consent process.

E&P20150129-Graph2

Another interesting piece of data is the outcome of resource decisions from various decision makers. The graph below illustrates the decisions made by those bodies. The majority of consent decisions are approved under delegated authority (by staff).

E&P20150129-Graph3

Interestingly, only independent commissioners appear to decline applications. In my opinion, the dramatic absence of applications being declined by a committee or panel (of councillors), or by staff, would appear to suggest that there might be some bias in the outcomes – either that, or independent commissioners have more difficult decisions to consider. I suspect independent commissioners are probably less prone to relying on reports provided by council staff when declining or approving consent applications.

There have been few objections to decisions made under delegation. Two from the previous year are yet to be resolved – one for a subdivision consent in Ruby Bay and the effect of Plan Change 22 (inundation prone land), and the second relating to conditions imposed on the proposed Mapua Drive development and the upgrade of road frontage. Three made in the last 6 months relate to coastal permits for marine farms at Wainui Bay, and a fourth concerns a Mapua subdivision development seeking a change to its consent application.

Plan change 22 (Maua-Ruby Bay development) has been the subject of 4 appeals in 2012. Three have been resolved by mutual consent. The fourth concerned a 3 ha site that flood modeling identified as prone to flooding. In December 2014, the court dismissed the developers appeal for 12 additional residential sites to be added to the development and confirmed that the district plan provisions for managing the hazard risks were appropriate, and that the additional sites increased the level of flooding risk.

Several court appeals heard over the last 6 months are summarised in the agenda (page 75). They included appeals against: coastal protection work conditions in Pakawau, subdivision intensification in Appleby Hills, subdivision reconfiguration within Pangatotara rural residential zone, and intensification of a rural residential zone in Seaton Valley Mapua.

The resource consent application for the Waimea Community Dam is expected to be released in February 2015.

Storm water

Interestingly staff have acknowledged (page 79) that “co-ordinating the management of stormwater flows from the eight development areas within the Wensley Block [Richmond South area] is an ongoing challenge”. I could not agree more, and its why council needs to ensure this area’s storm water issues are addressed in the short-term to mitigate any risk of flooding. I am already aware that some residents in the area are on their final insurance warning (ie, there will be no further insurance cover if buildings are flooded again). Council must ensure residential storm water issues are addressed before any other significant capital investment.

Muddy Buddy

Notably, an application to formalise use of the seabed in Moutre inlet for the “muddy buddy” event (held in March each year) has been granted on a non-notified track. The new track is now in an area well away from most sensitive shoreline habitat, and will alternate each year to reduce any impact on the surrounding estuary. Te Tau Ihu iwi have been very supportive of the consent.

This is a very positive outcome and reinforces the fact that the RMA does work. The surrounding estuary is a very important eco-system for the whole bay area and its use needs to be protected from unsustainable activities. Balancing the needs of the community while ensuring the environment is protected is a very positive outcome and staff should be congratulated in working though the legal issues in the RMA to get to the right outcome. Well done to everyone involved.

I would also like to congratulate TDC’s approach to the “monster slide” debacle that was happening over in Nelson during January 2015. I think the message that was taken home was that TDC is open for business. We now need to apply (and reinforce) that pro-active customer focused culture to the rest of the council’s operations on an ongoing basis.

Dog control

Generally (and comparatively), dog control is not very controversial for this council. By way of background, the number of dog owners in the district is 6,617 with the number of registered dogs being 10,227 (5,601 rural and 4,626 urban).

Most infringement notices relate to registration failure (159). Between July 2013 and June 2014, 8 dogs were classified as dangerous, and 45 dogs as having a menancing behaviour. However, there is still the odd prosecution for more serious incidents. For example, in May 2013, a dog was destroyed for attacking stock and another for attacking a horse on Rabbit island. In October 2013, a dog was destroyed for attacking a pet lamb.

Overall, the statistics suggest dogs are well controlled in the district and the bylaws are working effectively.

Biodiversity

The committee received the 2014 biodiversity report. A copy is available from the council’s webpage. The current programme costs $56,500 per year ($26,500 per year funded by council, and the remainder from the government’s Biofund). The biodiversity programme is designed to assist council meet its legal (RMA) responsibilities for protecting significant natural areas and maintaining indigenous biodiversity. With current resourcing it is estimated to take 15 years to complete assessment of all 16 ecological districts.

The biodiversity programme involves a number of separate projects undertaken on behalf of various stakeholders including council. For example, the native habitats Tasman (NHT) project started in 2007, is a district wide survey of natural areas, mainly on private land, to assess the ecological significance of these areas and provide owners with ecological reports to assist with the land’s management. Participation by landowners is voluntary. As at 30 September 2014, 420 sites had been assessed and 353 reports delivered to owners.

Due to recent changes to government funding criteria (meaning the organisation no longer qualifies for funding) the biodiversity project may need council to increase its funding from $26,000 to $56,000. A submission on the LTP to this effect is anticipated by council.

In my opinion, given the lack of government financial support for biodiversity, and no National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (the 2010 draft remains on hold), that might have provided clarity for council’s in understanding the scope of their legal obligations, perhaps its timely to pause and take stock. This might mean no further funding is provided, so that the current programmes are undertaken at a slower pace than they are currently (if at all).

Manager’s report

The manager’s report contained a number of topics. I intend to only summarise the more significant items that drew councilor interest. In particular; the coroner’s report, freedom camping, and the warmer healthier homes project.

I would have also liked to have commented on the department’s financial position, but this information was not provided in the agenda. An action item to respond to questions raised about last month’s financial’s (which highlighted several cost over-runs) was also over-looked. Hopefully these will be answered in due course.

Coroner’s report

During the week of 15-16 June 2013, the home of Ms Hude Hivon was struck by a landslide. The home was located on Seperation Point granite soils and the dwelling was authorised for construction in 1961 as worker’s accomodation. The coroner investigated the incident and has made two recommendations directed at TDC. First, that side castings are not deposited along the outer edge of tracks above steep slopes. Secondly, that TDC give consideration to at risk sites prior to any consent being awarded. These recommendations will form part of a review of the land disturbance rules which will occur in 2015.

Freedom camping

Generally the rules have worked very well in the Tasman region. By way of brief background, freedom camping is a permitted activity for legal vehicles. However, it remains an illegal activity for non-compliant vehicles (eg, those offending vehicles that are not fully self contained).

Unfortunately, the Motueka beach reserve area continues to be an area of concern for many residents. The complaints are concerned with the occupants of illegal, non-self-contained camping vehicles (eg, vans without toilets, showers or washing facilities) using community facilities improperly and causing a general nuisance.

The main problem with the freedom camping by-law is enforcement. A major problem with the rules is proving someone camped illegally. At present this is established by visiting the site in the early evening and morning. Any offending vehicles present on both occasions are deemed to have been camping overnight illegally. To avoid being caught, offending vehicles either turn up late in the evening or leave early in the morning (or both). Council staff suggested increasing the time spent policing (at a cost of $15,000) to address the problem. Effectively asking for more resources.

The increase in enforcement costs did not get much support around the council table. Accordingly staff undertook to investigate other options and to report back to the committee.

Some councilors had argued for the area to be closed off completely, or for existing toilet facilities to be removed, and water to be switched off. However, it was pointed out that this would be an expensive exercise (more costs for council), and illegal campers would just move to another location and annoy other people.

In my opinion, council staff needed a mechanism to establish illegal camping more efficiently (ie involving less staff time – and therefore cost). This could be done by prohibiting specified vehicles (non-self contained camping vehicles) from being parked in the area between specific times (eg 9pm to 7am). The presence of a non-self-contained camping vehicle during this time might show sufficient intent to camp (and place the burden on the offender to prove otherwise). Officers could then appear an hour or so after the specified time and immediately issue tickets for both illegally parking and\or illegally camping. I also wondered if a pre-registration process (text your registration to council) would aid the process of identifying illegal freedom camping.

I look forward to the staff report that comes back with some more thought out (and less expensive) options.

Warmer healthier homes

Council has been involved in promoting better insulation and upgrading home heating through its Warm Tasman programme. However, with the expiration of government funding it is unlikely it will remain appealing to ratepayers and no doubt council will retire the programme.

An alternative programme established in 2004 is the “Warmer Healthier Homes” programme funded by the Canterbury Community Trust, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, Absolute Energy, and Nelson Tasman Housing Trust. However, this initiative is much more narrowly focused and only targets low income households with respiratory health concerns. NCC has recently joined the project through committing $40,000 over two years.

This council has decided to watch how the project unfolds, before making any financial commitment at this time. Especially when it remains unclear to what degree Tasman ratepayers would benefit. Staff will report back before the conclusion of the LTP.

Agenda and minutes

A copy of the agenda report and minutes are located at http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/environment-and-planning-committee-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/EnvironmentPlanningCommittee/2015/2015-01-29.

Related newspaper items

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/communities/9770056/Muddy-Buddy-given-reprieve

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/8651887/Muddy-Buddy-a-foolish-idea

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/10336976/Scheme-to-insulate-homes-of-poor

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/65669601/Frustration-as-consents-take-longer-than-builds