COVID delays engagement on heritage areas

Published on 07 September 2021

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How best to manage the District’s heritage areas is the question the Far North District Council will ask affected communities in a new round of consultation on its Draft District Plan.

The Council released a Draft District ePlan for public feedback in March. This included suggested changes to heritage protections at Kerikeri, Kohukohu, Mangōnui and Rangitoto Peninsula, Paihia, Pouērua, Rangihoua, Rāwene, Russell and Te Waimate.

In response to public feedback, the Council had planned to undertake targeted engagement with affected property-owners. However, COVID-19 restrictions mean those plans have been reassessed.

Mayor John Carter says the Council recognises that changes to heritage precincts are of high public interest. “We have listened to the feedback and are committed to engaging with those who are affected. However, we believe engagement could not be effective or meaningful until the region moves back to Alert Level 2 restrictions.”

He says that with Northland returning to Level 2 from tomorrow, plans to deliver a letter and brochure detailing suggested changes to heritage precincts can now go ahead. These will be sent to affected tangata whenua partners and property owners next week. However, the ongoing need for physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings at Level 2 means that direct engagement on suggested heritage areas will initially be undertaken online.

“Our District Plan Team will host an online information session and offer opportunities for digital one-on-one sessions with affected people to discuss how suggested changes may impact their properties. We will provide session dates and times as soon as details are confirmed. These will likely be held at the end of September.”

He says that the Council has a legal obligation under the Resource Management Act (1991) to protect the District’s heritage from inappropriate development and that suggested changes contained in the Draft District Plan resulted from an assessment of existing heritage precincts by an independent expert.

One reason for these changes is to acknowledge the stories of both early Māori and European settlement. At places such as Mangōnui, Pouērua and Paihia, an increase to the size of the protected area is suggested to recognise early Māori settlement, and early European contact and settlement. Changes at Russell include replacing the three existing heritage precincts and gateway area with one heritage area. New heritage rules will also improve consistency across the District and will include renaming precincts as ‘heritage areas’ to be consistent with the new National Planning Standards.

Mayor Carter is urging affected residents and communities to learn more out about the changes in the Draft District Plan. Details will be available on the Council’s website at www.fndc.govt.nz/heritage.

“We want to know if we are protecting the right things. Do we need to revise the areas?  What does the community value?  Have we got the rules right? Is there are a more effective way to protect our district’s heritage areas?”

The feedback period will run for four weeks after letters are received.

All feedback on the Draft District Plan will be considered before the Council notifies its Proposed District Plan. This will begin the statutory District Plan-making process and provide an opportunity for the community to make formal submissions on the Proposed District Plan. The process includes formal public hearings ahead of any decision being made. Submitters can also appeal decisions to the Environment Court.

Email letsplantogether@fndc.govt.nz or call 0800 920 029 and ask for the District Plan Team for further information. You can subscribe to www.fndc.govt.nz/heritage to be notified of updates.