Council to remove SNA maps from Proposed District Plan

Published on 27 July 2021


Maps showing Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) with high ecological values will no longer be included in the Council’s Proposed District Plan when it is notified, the Far North District Council has decided.

The Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee voted last Tuesday to continue developing the content for the draft District Plan, but to remove SNA maps developed by ecologists from the document. The Committee also agreed to discuss the protection of significant biodiversity again at its next monthly meeting when elected members have completed discussions with Government ministers and the Council’s options are clearer.   

Committee Chairperson, Councillor Rachel Smith, says the decision endorses an undertaking Mayor Carter made in June to ‘pause’ the mapping of SNAs. This followed protests by tangata whenua, farmers and other landowners who said the proposal to identify land as SNAs undermined their sovereignty and property rights. This opposition culminated in a large hikoi to the Council’s Kaikohe headquarters where tangata whenua delivered a petition against the process.

Councillor Smith says the decision to pause SNA mapping was supported by Associate Environment Minister James Shaw and Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta. However, this did not relieve the Council of its statutory obligations under the Resource Management Act 1991, the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010, and the Regional Policy Statement for Northland 2016 to protect significant species and habitats.

“Our decision provides a clear way forward for our draft District Plan, while acknowledging more direction is needed from Central Government on how to support landowners to protect significant species and habitats.”

The Committee debated the issue at length and initially considered three options for progressing work on the draft District Plan. These included:

  • Continuing to refine SNA maps and include these in the Proposed District Plan in December
  • Removing SNA maps from the Proposed District Plan and replacing them with a policy framework that gives effect to existing higher planning policies
  • Removing SNA maps from the Proposed District Plan and replacing them with a policy framework that gives effect to the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity which the Government is still developing.

“Ignoring clear public feedback on SNAs was not an option and the Committee was uncomfortable with aspects of the other options.

“In the end, we opted for a simple approach. We will continue vital work on the draft District Plan. However, we will delay any decisions about how to give effect to higher planning rules until we have greater clarity about our options.”

The Council has worked on a draft District Plan since 2016 and began engaging with Far North communities this year to seek feedback before notifying a Proposed District Plan. The Proposed District Plan is due to be publicly notified in December, allowing for formal submissions from the public.

A video recording of the 20 July Strategy and Policy Committee meeting can be viewed online via the Council’s YouTube channel