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outstanding natural landscapes

The Waitaki District is home to some of New Zealand’s most iconic and distinctive landscapes, which are worthy of recognition and protection.


Our district covers the vast expanses of the Mackenzie and Ōmārama Basins, through to the lakes and down the mighty Waitaki river and out to the spectacular coast. Our district also includes cultural landscapes and features of significant value to Kāi Tahu, including extensive karst outcrops which include historic rock carvings. Our world-renowned landscapes make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s unique character and sense of place. In recognition of our iconic landscapes, parts of the District have been classified as Outstanding Natural Landscapes (ONL), the protection of which are deemed to be a matter of national importance. Protection of these areas is vital to ensure that they are retained for the enjoyment of generations of residents and visitors to the Waitaki, both now and into the future.


Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) Waitaki District Council is required to recognise and protect outstanding natural landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. A comprehensive study has been undertaken to identify all important landscapes in the district and to assess them against criteria set out in the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement and Otago Regional Policy Statement. Specialist analysis has then determined which landscapes pass the threshold for consideration as ‘outstanding’.

We identified some key issues facing Outstanding Natural Landscapes in the Waitaki District;

► 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 and biodiversity values due to agricultural conversion and intensification (including irrigation, cultivation, top dressing and over-sowing);
► Regional policy identifies large areas and different parts of the Waitaki landscape that should be identified and included as outstanding natural landscape;
► Irrigation activities in the mid-upper Waitaki Valley have changed the look of the landscape, reducing the natural character of the landscape;
► Additional ‘outstanding natural landscapes’ have been identified for potential inclusion in the new District Plan.

We then drafted responses to these issues;

► Revise the mapping of Outstanding Natural Landscapes (ONL);
► Development of a rule framework that protects the ONLs of the district from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. For example, increasing the 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;
► Consider introducing defined farm base areas which could enable more intensive development within defined areas, subject to performance standards;
► Proposed changes to rules relating to forestry within amenity landscapes;
► Encouraging appropriate land management practices, which foster protection and enhancement of ONL’s, through the work of individuals and community groups;
► Providing for existing activities and limited new activities within ONF’s and ONL’s 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 mean time, here is an overview of what we propose to do in response to the key issues.

Overall objectives

► To provide 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 ONL.

► Reducing the impact of wilding conifers within ONL.


General Rules

The proposed new rules will allow appropriate activities where these maintain or protect the values of the landscape, but will limit inappropriate activities such as large buildings, agricultural intensification, mining, quarrying and exotic forestry plantation.

How does an ONL affect me?

If your property has been identified as being located within an Outstanding Natural Landscape, this will generally not affect you unless you’re proposing to undertake new activities that could damage the values of the ONL. This could include large new buildings, exotic tree planting, earthworks, mining or quarrying. For these activities, a resource consent may be needed.  Existing-use rights will likely apply to many existing activities.