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outstanding natural features, significant natural features & Rural Scenic Landscapes

Outstanding Natural Features, Significant Natural Features and Rural Scenic Landscapes 

An Outstanding Natural Feature (ONF) is a feature of our natural landscape that has been deemed to be of national importance to protect under our District Plan. ONF’s are important natural landform features that are distinct and are often geological features.  Technically, an ONF is something that is created by ‘processes of nature, such as igneous and metamorphic activity, sedimentation, faulting and folding, glaciation and erosion’. 

A Significant Natural Feature (SNF) is a feature of the landscape that, while important, does not have a high enough value to be regarded ‘outstanding’ – but has sufficient value to warrant formal recognition through the District Plan.  An SNF is still protected, but not to the same degree as an ONF. 

Rural Scenic Landscapes (RSL) are areas of local importance to the District and are sometimes termed ‘amenity landscapes’.  These landscapes make a significant contribution to the Waitaki District’s unique character, amenity and identity and can often support the wider landscape setting of an ONF or SNF – essentially they are landscapes that make the district special.   

We identified key issues facing Outstanding Natural Features, Significant Natural Features, and Rural Scenic Landscapes in the Waitaki;

► The natural character of the upper Waitaki landscape has changed in recent years as a result of development pressures and intensive farming. The Council is working closely with the MacKenzie Alignment Group to address any gaps in the current District Plan and ensure alignment with the relevant legislation and plans;
► Parts of the mid-upper Waitaki Valley are particularly prone to further loss of landscape, natural features and biodiversity values due to agricultural conversion and intensification (including irrigation, cultivation, top dressing and over-sowing). 

We then drafted key responses to these issues;

► Development of a rule framework that protects the ONFs, SNF's, and RSL in the district from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. For example increasing minimum lot sizes, reducing the maximum height of buildings and structures, increasing the setbacks from public roads and areas, introducing a maximum building coverage/ gross floor area for buildings;
► Proposed changes to rules relating to forestry within amenity landscapes;
► Encouraging appropriate land management practices, which foster protection and enhancement of these features through the work of individuals and community groups;
► Providing for existing activities and limited new activities within ONF/SNF/RSL in appropriate circumstances;
► Restricting some activities in the most sensitive landscapes such as built development, forestry and the irrigation of land.

We are now developing a draft chapter that will shape how we protect these areas in our district. The chapter will be available when we release our entire draft district plan later this year for community feedback. In the meantime, here is an overview of what we have done in response to the key issues.

Overall Objectives

The draft District Plan will include objectives to protect Outstanding Natural Features, Significant Natural Features and Rural Scenic Landscapes, which include:

  • Providing for appropriate rural activities within these important areas while at the same time maintaining or protecting the characteristics that make them special;

  • Encouraging the restoration and enhancement of these areas;

  • Reducing the impact of wilding conifers.

General Rules

The new rules propose to provide for appropriate activities where these maintain or protect the values of the ONF or SNF, but limit inappropriate activities such as agricultural intensification, mining, quarrying and exotic forestry plantation. For Rural Scenic Landscapes, buildings and activities will be provided for where they maintain the overall amenity values of the landscape and setting for any ONF or SNF.

How does an ONF, SNF or RSL affect me?

If your property has been identified as being located within an ONF, SNF or RSL, this will generally not affect you unless you’re proposing to undertake activities that could damage the values of the feature or landscape identified. This could include new buildings, exotic tree planting, earthworks, mining or quarrying. For these activities, a resource consent may be needed.

The video below is a recording of a webinar with landscape architects Anne Steven and Grahame Densem held on 17 May  explaining Rural Scenic Landscape overlay and what it means for landowners: