Significant Natural Areas

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Our District is home to a range of unique landscapes, species and habitats, many of which are under threat. Council is required to identify these habitats and to protect them through a District Plan. While there are already rules in the current District Plan to manage these habitats, we are now required to identify these areas and manage them more specifically in a new District Plan. This new plan is still in draft.

"I want to assure you that the District Council, Northland Regional Council and the Government have heard you and we will continue to listen to what you have to say on SNAs."
Read Mayor Carter's statement in full: What next for SNAs?

Last year we collaborated with the other Northland councils on a project to map and identify Significant Natural Areas (SNA) within each District. The new mapping has increased the accuracy and knowledge of these natural areas in Northland. Mapping identifies approximately 42% of our District contains these potentially sensitive environments. This is an increase from around 30% last mapped in the 1990s.

The new mapping project was undertaken by consultant ecologists, Wildland Consultants, using existing literature, inspection of new aerial photography and site visits. The mapped SNAs are included in the Draft Proposed District Plan that will be released in early March 2021.

New questions and answers

A report will be tabled at the Strategy and Policy Committee meeting on Thursday 20 July to seek a recommendation on next steps for the SNA project. The meeting can be viewed on Far North District Council's YouTube channel from 9:30am.

A Significant Natural Area (SNA) is an area of native plants and habitat that has high ecological value. An SNA is selected based on criteria contained in Appendix 5 of the Regional Policy Statement for Northland.

Council currently uses Department of Conservation Protected Natural Areas Programme maps. These maps have not been updated since the 1990s. Far North District Council is required by Northland’s Regional Policy Statement to identify SNAs. The Council also has a responsibility under the Resource Management Act 1991 to protect areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna as a matter of national importance. 

A total of 685 SNAs have been identified by Wildlands Consultants. This covers 282,696 hectares, which is approximately 42% of the area of the Far North District. Of that 42%, approximately half of that area is public land (already zoned as conservation land) and half is in private ownership.

If you are not planning on developing your land, then an SNA on your land means business as usual. However, the proposed District Plan will have rules around SNAs in terms of vegetation clearance and protection through the subdivision process. This means that you may need to apply for a resource consent if you are planning on clearing vegetation or establishing new uses of land within a SNA.

No. If you are not planning on developing or subdividing your property, there will be no requirement to formally protect the SNA through fencing, covenants or other methods. However, the proposed District Plan will have land use and subdivision rules associated with SNAs that may require you to protect the SNA if you plan to develop the land or clear vegetation. There may also be options for you to voluntarily protect the SNA formally, either through a Council conservation covenant or a private covenant (i.e QEII). 

No. However, there are a number of schemes that may incentivise protection; including rates remission for conservation covenants that are voluntarily applied to natural areas with ecological values. More information on conservation covenants

  • Rules around vegetation clearance are covered in Chapter 12.2 of the Operative District Plan. The criteria relate to the amount of vegetation to be cleared, and the age of trees.
  • Chapter 13 on Subdivision refers to the DOC Protected Natural Areas maps when assessing the effects subdivision will have on indigenous flora and fauna. The new Indigenous Biodiversity chapter will refer directly to the SNA maps, which are contained in the plan.