FAQ Regional Forum

Regional forum

Q. What is the Regional Forum?

A. The Regional Forum is a community based group set up to advise Environment Southland’s council and Te Ao Marama board members on how to achieve the communities’ aspirations for freshwater. Forum members consider the specific policies and rules as well as the on-ground initiatives required to make change and improve Southland’s water and land for generations to come. Those considerations must include the limits (e.g. water quality and quantity), targets, methods, impacts and policy context.

It’s an important role. The forum plays a key part in shaping how Southland’s water resources are managed now and in the future.

Q: How was representation on the Regional Forum determined?

A: Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama Inc. considered 60 applicants to the forum, looking at what the best composition would be. We selected people who strongly reflect Southland’s situation and its diversity and characteristics. We looked at regions with a similar context to Southland, evaluated forums that worked well in these places and why, and examined how these forums have been constructed.

The first 15 members were selected by a panel which included council chairman Nicol Horrell, councillors Lyndal Ludlow and Jeremy McPhail and Te Ao Marama Inc. chairperson Don Mowat and board member Gail Thompson.

After some members stepped down, a further five applicants were selected to join the Forum and attended their first workshop at the Hokonui Runanga in April 2021. A further Forum member resigned in 2021.

The forum brings to the table Southlanders’ views and thinking on freshwater values and objectives. It needs to reflect this thinking in the advice the forum gives to Environment Southland’s council during the freshwater limit setting process.

Q. Who is on the Regional Forum?

A. The Forum is a group of 16 men and women from across Southland who reflect different parts of the region and have a range of experiences and interests. They don’t represent particular groups or industries. They don’t have specific industry or council representation as part of its membership – that wasn’t why they were selected.

Forum members are capable, open-minded, and passionate about Southland and the legacy they leave for future generations. The forum has an urban/rural balance, a broad geographic distribution, and a defined role for tangata whenua to reflect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Check out who's on the forum.

Q: What will the forum do, what are the key issues/questions that the regional forum will consider?

A: The forum has taken all the information from the community conversations and is considering the options available to achieve the community’s objectives in relation to freshwater (which includes setting limits). The forum has been talking with Southland communities and groups as options are developed. There’ll be assessments and scenario testing before the forum puts forward options including a preferred option or recommendation to Environment Southland’s council.

The forum presented their recommendation report to Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama in July 2022. Click here to read the report.

Q: What will the link/relationship be with the Environment Southland councillors?

A: The regional forum is an advisory group to the council and provides a connecting link to Southland’s communities, businesses and organisations.

The forum considers and advises on the options for achieving the community’s objectives in relation to freshwater, including setting freshwater limits. The council will then consider the options and decide whether to adopt the preferred option. This will include regulatory and non-regulatory methods. If the council decides to adopt this option, the Southland community will be consulted further on the preferred option as part of a statutory Plan Change process.

Q: How are linkages between the forum’s work and the wider community being maintained (so community can be informed of forum’s progress & opportunities to contribute)?

A: Environment Southland has well-established, regular communication channels that it uses to connect with Southlanders. These channels, and potentially new ones, are being used to keep the community informed and up-to-date with the forum’s progress. Visit the forum's Facebook page.

Q: What steps are in place to ensure transparency regarding the regional forum deliberations and supporting science?

A: The regional forum is as transparent and informative as possible in sharing information with Southlanders. The forum has been seeking input and feedback at key points as the options for achieving the communities’ values and objectives for freshwater including setting limits are considered. These considerations have been integral to the forum's processes.

Q: Will the regional forum’s recommendations be binding, or will a plan change process follow?

A: The regional forum’s recommendations are not binding. When the forum decides on a preferred option for achieving the community’s values and objectives for freshwater including setting limits, it will then advise on the options and make a recommendation to Environment Southland’s council. Council will then use the recommendations to inform the development of Plan Change Tuatahi, which will be consulted on through a statutory consultation process. This offers Southlanders a further opportunity to have their say on the preferred options.

Regional Forum members at the Templeton Flax Mill near Riverton as part of their workshop in July 2020.