significant natural areas
In New Zealand and especially the Waitaki, we have many native plants, birds and animals that are unique to our country. Some of these, along with their ecosystems, are under threat of extinction.
Much of the districts’ indigenous vegetation coverage and habitat has been lost. Remaining areas of indigenous vegetation and habitats that are deemed of high natural value will be protected under the new District Plan as Significant Natural Areas (SNAs). Council has a legal obligation to protect these areas and it’s important that we strike the balance between protecting livelihoods and looking after our indigenous vegetation.
Nature is part of our everyday lives as we enjoy the great outdoors of Aotearoa New Zealand with our families. Our native trees, plants, birds, animals, insects, and the places they inhabit are all part of who we are. Native biodiversity helps provide clean water, nutrient cycling, mahinga kai (food provisioning) and materials for other purposes such as raranga (weaving) and rongoā (medicinal uses). However, our indigenous biodiversity is declining and is at risk of becoming extinct.
The Government has proposed a way to build on the work already underway by many landowners to maintain and protect our precious indigenous biodiversity. The proposed National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) will set out the objectives and policies to identify, protect, manage, and restore indigenous biodiversity under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
At a Council Level, there is a recognition that the District is rich in biodiversity. Council has established fifteen entire or partial ecological districts in the Waitaki, which deserve to be protected under the District Plan.
We identified key issues facing Significant Natural Areas in the Waitaki;
► Regional policy requires identification of areas of indigenous vegetation and habitats within the Waitaki District. Not all areas of indigenous vegetation and habitats have been identified – this makes management, protection and enhancement difficult;
► Subdivision of land containing SNA can lead to fragmentation, this can lead to loss of biodiversity values;
► Areas of indigenous vegetation and habitats continue to decline in Waitaki;
► Habitat loss and modification often occurs through land use change, for example, clearance of indigenous vegetation/draining wetlands to break in new paddocks or create a new subdivision – there needs to be a balancing between recognition and protection of values and the working rural environments;
► Habitat degradation and indigenous species loss as a result of domestic and wild grazing animals, for example, minimal regeneration of threatened tree species due to browsing of seedlings by livestock and rabbits;
► Climate change causing increased drought frequencies – impacts at all levels of the ecosystem.
We then drafted responses to key issues;
► Identification of Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) on public and private land using site surveys and aerial photos and historic data where access has been denied;
► Consult with landowners that have had both a ground based verification survey, and those which have been identified by desktop survey about inclusion of their SNAs in the District Plan;
► Investigate the provision of a financial incentive (eg. rates relief, transferable development rights) for those landowners who have SNAs listed in the District Plan;
► Improve the effectiveness and application of current indigenous vegetation rules including definitions;
► Encourage landowners to protect and enhance areas of indigenous biodiversity, and support them in a co-operative manner by considering a range of options and protection mechanisms such as biodiversity management plans;
► Encourage retention of SNA areas within one land parcel by introducing specific subdivision rules where SNA’s have been identified.
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.
►The objective of protecting Significant Natural Areas is to maintain and provide for the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and habitats of indigenous fauna.
Activities such as earthworks, indigenous vegetation clearance and agricultural intensification are key threats to SNAs. The draft approach will require resource consents for these activities within SNAs. The planting of non-indigenous species within SNA will be prohibited.
The draft approach allows for the continuation of existing activities by permitting limited vegetation clearance and earthworks (eg: maintenance of existing tracks, fences etc) within SNAs.
How does an SNA affect me?
If your property has an identified Significant Natural Area, this will generally not affect you unless you’re proposing to undertake activities that could damage the values of the site. This could include large new buildings, exotic tree planting, agricultural intensification, indigenous vegetation clearance, earthworks, mining or quarrying. For these activities, a resource consent may be needed.
The Waitaki District Council has a biodiversity fund available to assist with pest control and fencing on private or customary land in the Waitaki District. Priority is given to areas with high natural values (as opposed to creation of new values through tree planting).
You can get in contact with the Council’s Biodiversity Advisor for additional information and support regarding your property.