by Chris Tobin
Differences are being put aside as councils and government organisations work together to protect Mackenzie’s landscapes, which the district’s mayor, Graham Smith, says is a first for the country.
On Friday, Mr Smith and chief executives from five agencies – the Mackenzie District Council, Waitaki District Council, Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and Environment Canterbury – met in Twizel to discuss progress one year after the start of the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme.
Mr Smith said it had been a very positive meeting.
“I am very happy and pleased with the progress being made to simplify the complicated regularity processes between the various authorities.
“It is allowing a much more informed approach and a co-ordinated decision-making.
“I do note that this alignment group is the first in New Zealand to work together.
“As mayor I have confidence that good shared information decisions will benefit Mackenzie.”
Mr Smith said Mackenzie was in the national spotlight with the boom in tourism and changes in farming.
“It needs co-operation between farming, water, environment and tourism.
“Work streams around Predator Free, wildings, dryland heritage areas, the Te Manahuna conservation project and the social licence to manage tourism have begun.”
Last year, a report entitled “Mackenzie Basin: Opportunities for agency alignment”, said the challenge faced by Mackenzie Basin farmers, stakeholders and the agencies with responsibility for land and water management in this area was how to reconcile outstanding natural landscape and biodiversity values with the need for landowners and communities to maintain and develop their sources of livelihood, particularly in pastoral farming.
Environment Canterbury chief executive Bill Bayfield said the five agencies had agreed to 25 recommendations in the report.
“We have already sharpened our internal processes, moved to co-ordinate planning and consenting requirements and provided more resources and support,” Mr Bayfield explained.
“Our tourism strategy will ensure we manage tourism pressure and investment and we have launched a one-stop shop website with all the information and updates the community will be looking for.”
Land Information NZ (Linz) chief executive Lisa Barrett agreed that considerable progress had been made.
“At Linz we’ve made fundamental changes to the way we work with these other agencies to deliver better outcomes for the Mackenzie Basin,” Ms Barrett said.
Department of Conservation Director-general Lou Sanson said they were working with Ngai Tahu and the Mackenzie Country Trust and community to deliver a Dryland Heritage Area protecting landscapes, native plants and animals as well as the basin’s cultural and historic heritage.
Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power said the alignment programme worked well with core principles in the Waitaki district’s proposed Waitaki Whitestone Unesco Global Geopark.