Planning for Southland's Future.
Ali Timms, Environment Southland's Chair, wrote a very good opinion piece (March 17) in which she discusses possible local council reform. While there could be perceived savings in the establishment of a unitary authority (a single council replacing the current four) that would reduce duplication of services, there already exists a growing level of collaboration. Ali describes the cooperation between councils in creating Emergency Management Southland and the development of our regional water plan as being good examples of these.
The "South Island Strategic Alliance" also has potential and it appears that the parochialism and patch protection that may have existed in the past is giving way to greater pragmatism.
I share Ali's concerns regarding the Resource Management Act and the expensive and often protracted process that can result. As someone who has presented submissions under this act, its limitations can be cause for frustration.
The advantages of having regional plans for the likes of water is that many proposals are turned away at an early stage because they are not compatible with the plan and therefore save the time and energy needed in following the normal consents process. A regional development plan would serve the same purpose, it may take time to set up but much of the background work already exists with Topoclimate Survey and Venture Southland's highly regarded Energy Strategy.
The difficulty with the current consenting process is that the wider ramifications or merits of a given project often cannot be taken into account. A robust development plan would have environmental and economic sustainability as a priority and proposals that don't contribute to that will not proceed. It is currently possible for those who see potential for personal gain through the exploitation of our resources to be successful despite causing a negative impact on the environment and having wider economic ramifications. Let us make sure that the future prosperity of our region is one that we can all benefit from and is sustainable into the future.