Upton Voices Concerns Over Far North Proposed District Plan

  • Simon Upton
Associate Minister of Local Government

The Minister for the Environment, Hon Simon Upton, has written today to Sue James, Mayor of the Far North District Council, expressing his concern about the Far North Proposed District Plan.

Mr Upton said he was aware that the plan has generated a great deal of discontent within the community and is of particular concern to the local MP, John Carter. "At issue is the heavy handed and non-consultative way in which land owners have had restrictions placed on the use of land by the rules relating to Significant Natural Areas (SNAs)."

Mr Upton stressed that the council must pursue its statutory obligations to protect significant natural areas, but urged the council to tackle the protection of significant natural vegetation in a way that wins community support rather than widespread hostility.

The Minister said he was concerned by the inaccuracy with which the SNAs were defined in the Far North Proposed District Plan and by the uncertainty created in the minds of affected landowners. He said, "there is no doubt that rules protecting SNAs result in costs to landowners,
including delays in investment decisions, diminished economic viability and increased difficulties for owners who may wish to sell their land.

"There are no durable conservation gains to be made from creating resentment amongst land owners. Because important biodiversity issues are at stake it is crucial that the council bring its constituent landowners on board. What is particularly disturbing is the adverse effect the proposed rules have on perceptions of the RMA."

The Minister has proposed that the Council deal with the plan provisions relating to the protection of significant natural areas as quickly as possible, taking on board the views of affected landowners. If they can't hear the arguments of landowners and make the decisions rapidly, he
has suggested that the council should simply remove the contentious provisions and set about negotiating a fresh approach to protecting important areas of native vegetation in a way that can secure community support.