Updating you on SNAs

Published on 20 May 2021

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Earlier this month, we sent letters to approximately 8000 landowners informing them about results of a regional Significant Natural Area (SNA) mapping project undertaken with Northland councils at the direction of Northland Regional Council and the Government. This was the first step in a discussion with landowners about SNAs identified on their properties.

This land was identified using the most recent data available to Council, such as aerial photography, to identify the presence of native plants and habitats with high ecological value. Typically, this is an area of native bush that is home to rare or endangered native species. Like elsewhere in the country, these habitats are being lost due to introduced predators and habitat loss.

Included in the letter was an ecological report detailing the SNA, along with a feedback form and an online link to provide a more detailed response. Many have contacted us, and I want to respond to key questions and provide an update on the process.

Firstly, I want to emphasise this is not a Council initiative. All local authorities across the country have been tasked by the Government with protecting areas of high ecological value under the Resource Management Act. The overall goal is to slow or halt habitat loss. In Northland, the 2016 Northland Regional Council Regional Policy Statement directs us to identify SNAs and to include these in the District Plan. We are now doing that as part of our District Plan review.

The mapping exercise identified as much as 42 per cent of the district as having high ecological value. This is more than when the district was last mapped in the 1990s. If you disagree with the assessment of your land, we want to hear from you. Initially, we gave landowners until 24 May to provide feedback, but we have listened to your concerns and extended that to 11 June. Getting your feedback was never the end of the process. We are continuing discussions with landowner and tangata whenua, so we can fine-tune the new District Plan. Our aim is to balance our obligations to protect habitats, while helping to maintain ongoing land uses. You can make a submission on SNAs and the Proposed District Plan when it is publicly notified later this year.

I know landowners are concerned about restrictions on property use. The Council has raised similar concerns with the Government through input on the draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity. This remains under review, and we hope it will provide greater flexibility, especially around Māori land.

If you have concerns, I urge you to make your Member of Parliament aware of them.

Last week, the Council held deliberations on the Long Term Plan 2021-31 and decisions made will be confirmed during our 24 June meeting. Many of you will want to know about the rates review. I can confirm that we will retain the current system of calculating rates based on property value. Many more decisions were taken during what was a marathon meeting last Thursday and we will provide more details soon.