This social and economic impact assessment (SEIA) is a strategic assessment of the proposed Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement (RPS), particularly focused on the impacts for Māori and socially and economically disadvantaged communities in the region.
The emphasis of the assessment on the views of community stakeholders was to constructively engage with groups which are often under-represented in consultation processes. This report explores qualitatively the range of potential impacts identified by stakeholders, and where possible, suggests opportunities for mitigation/enhancement and management.
The project was commissioned by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and undertaken by Dr Adrian Field of Synergia and Megan Tunks, an independent Māori researcher.
The work was undertaken over January-April 2011, with a view to informing discussions by elected representatives of the regional council by May 2011.
The research revealed support for many of the directions put forward by the RPS, as well as concerns with some of the potential impacts of the RPS.
The discussions and research for the SEIA revealed a range of competing aspirations and tensions. These include the desire to preserve and restore the environment of the region – and, with this, many of the deeply held Māori cultural traditions; and the desire for the opportunity to build the economic foundations of the region (such as through dairying, horticulture and aquaculture), and achieve improve social outcomes through this.
Many of the concerns raised had less to do with the content of the RPS, but more to do with the historical forces that have created the environmental concerns, and their attendant social, cultural and economic impacts, which the RPS is intended to address. There were however a number of objections (particularly the issue of dairying in at-risk catchments and municipal supply protection), which challenge some of the underlying approaches of the RPS.
From the stakeholder discussions, a range of potential directions forward are possible in the ongoing implementation of the RPS.
- Supporting/promoting improved farm management systems.
- Regional support/advocacy to implement water quality initiatives, such as TAPS (a drinking water subsidy to help small/disadvantaged communities improve supplies), or water reticulation/hazard management charges
- Strengthening systems for identifying and managing cultural impacts, particularly where issues in this report have raised cultural impacts (such as access to mahinga kai, and protection of sites of significance).
- Ongoing identification and management of health impacts, including cultural health indicators, in partnership with the district health board
- Fostering more integrated solutions to water allocation, through implementation of the RPS, working with iwi in the region
- Continue working across local government and other agencies to enhance water quality in the region
- Review of regional monitoring frameworks, to ensure they are fit for purpose in light of the issues raised in this review.
- In some key areas of RPS implementation at the local level, community impact agreements; community liaison groups and community advisory panels may be useful tools to employ.