We're not the ORC of old

by Blaise.Cahill-Lane,

Here in Otago, we’re privileged to live among stunning, diverse landscapes and waterways. It is one of Aotearoa’s most beautiful regions, but we’ve got our environmental challenges. Gritty issues that we need to sort together.

Together with our communities, we’re grappling with the best ways to protect and sustainably manage our water and land resources. We’re already experiencing more floods and fires - the impacts of climate change. And no matter where we live, pollution in our water and how much water we use is a challenge for everyone.

At ORC, over the 2020-21 year, we’re increasing our efforts and spending because we must work faster and more effectively to address these issues— whether they relate to water, climate change, biodiversity and biosecurity, or urban development. Impacts on our environment are happening now so we must deliver effective environmental policies and rules that are robust and workable for our communities.

Our communities have been asking us to do more. Through catchment and community groups, and feedback directly to councillors and staff in other community settings, we’re listening.

ORC’s strength lies in the skills and expertise of our people. In collaboration with the knowledge and insights of our communities, we’re working together to improve outcomes for our regional environment.

So, in 2020-21, we will make new rules to protect our environment, set up landowner groups to manage rabbits, fund projects with catchment groups that undertake work to improve water quality and biodiversity, and consider a ferry service in Queenstown. To do all of this we need to invest more in our people, building our capabilities and resources. People are our biggest asset when it comes to delivering our work programme. We want to be better equipped to develop the best possible framework for sustainably managing Otago’s natural resources.

Minister for the Environment, David Parker, has recently set Otago ambitious timeframes for managing our water resources more effectively. It’s important that we meet these—not just because he’s asked us to—but because we want Otago on a firm footing for the future. Our ability to meet the challenge sits both with ORC and our communities. Working together, we can achieve our goals.

Investing more in our work programme means we’re able to make a greater difference in a shorter time. While some of these funds will come from ORC’s reserves and investment income, there is also a proposed increase in rates for 2020-21, compared to that stated in our Long-term Plan (LTP).

In a nutshell, we’re accelerating the pace of what we’ve already said we’d do in the LTP. You’ve seen this as we recently delivered the first in a series of plan changes to keep things moving; we’re not slowing down.

We are more equipped now than at any other time with the expertise we have on staff. We have capitalised on opportunities to hire talented professionals returning home to Otago and to bring in new thinking through creating a diverse team. Yet there are still hills to climb. With good leadership and community working together we can create success.

Representative and transparent governance is vital to achieving what’s best for Otago. It includes having a deep understanding of our communities and the challenges and opportunities they face. We have a new, energised Council, connected, engaged and eager to work hard on behalf of its communities.

Working with our iwi partners, we give effect to the Treaty of Waitangi partnership, strengthening it and acknowledging the unique, enduring relationship iwi have with this land. We are privileged to have local iwi representation on our Strategy and Planning Committee and have entered into arrangements to ensure we can access important iwi skills and advice for the work we do.

Here, we provide an overview of work in our four priority areas for the 2020-21 annual plan and how we propose to fund this work. The annual planning cycle provides a process for the ORC and community to review budgets set out in the LTP. We’d love you to have a read and give us your recommendations.

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