Protecting our native bush
New Zealand is recognised internationally as a hot spot for biological diversity. Taranaki’s native bush areas, rivers and streams, wetlands and coastal areas provide significant habitats for indigenous flora and fauna species, including threatened species.
The Council has a legal obligation to protect our native bush or significant natural areas (SNAs). There are 32 SNAs included in the District Plan in Appendix 21. A resource consent is required to remove indigenous vegetation within these 32 areas.
We are currently reviewing SNAs as part of the larger District Plan review and have identified additional Likely Significant Natural Areas (LSNAs) that we’re thinking about including in the next District Plan. For further information on the District Plan Review please refer to the District Plan Review page.
Information for landowners who have a Likely Significant Area identified on their property
For more information please read the factsheet below:
In 2017 the Council sent letters to landowners asking if they would like a field check on their property. We also held open days in local communities allowing landowners to discuss their property one on one with us.
In 2019, we are continuing to talk to landowners about the few remaining significant natural areas identified. We are also working on our Proposed District Plan which is set to be notified mid-2019. Once notified, the rules included in the Proposed District Plan will have immediate effect. Landowners are still be able to request an ecological field check to make sure our information is correct. They will also be able to give formal feedback by writing a submission as part of the formal District Plan consultation process.
Process for the review of SNAs
In the past, we promoted a non-regulatory method to work with landowners to manage biodiversity in the district. However, we have twice been challenged in to the Environment Court – the most recent being the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society v New Plymouth District Council 2015.
While the Court acknowledged the benefits of our management advice and funding, the Court’s decision was that there are some minimum requirements that a management regime should meet:
- The District Plan cannot be silent on this issue.
- Management methods must protect identified areas.
- Mechanisms, including rules, must be considered.
As a result, we are now taking a two-step process to better follow the court judgements.
STEP 1: IDENTIFICATION
Why has the Council identified an area of vegetation on my property?
We use criteria to identify areas of vegetation which contain significant values. Areas are generally considered important where they are:
- Naturally uncommon or threatened ecosystem types, or
- Habitats of threatened or at risk species of native plants or animals,
- Important seasonal or permanent habitat for species,
- Wildlife corridors between natural areas,
- Representative vegetation or fauna of the district, and/or
- Located in the coastal environment.
How can I get more information on the native vegetation on my property?
The criteria for significant natural areas (SNAs) has been applied by professional ecologists. They use aerial photography and existing databases of ecological information to identify a number of areas of vegetation around the district including the hill country, the ring plain and coastal and urban areas.
Following our desktop assessment, landowners can request an ecological field check to find out more information on the ecological values that are on site, or to exclude areas that are not actually significant. This involves a Council-appointed and funded ecologist visiting the site and providing advice on identified areas.
Requesting a visit is particularly useful if landowners are uncertain about the ecological values on their property as it provides the opportunity to discuss these values and any management options.
How will the Council include this SNA information in the District Plan?We propose to include SNA information in the District Plan through the District Plan review, which is currently under-way. We are required to review all of the provisions of the District Plan every 10 years. This review started in 2015 and to date, we have released a draft District Plan and a digital e-Plan for comment. Throughout the review process we have worked with stakeholder and community feedback to develop the plan further and resolve any issues.
The review of significant natural areas is part of the District Plan review. In 2019 we are finalising our proposed District Plan which will be publicly notified in accordance with the Resource Management Act 1991.
STEP 2: DISTRICT PLAN PROVISIONS
So, how do we manage significant natural areas in the New Plymouth District?
Identifying sites of significance and releasing a draft District Plan for comment was the beginning of our conversation with the community around SNAs. It has given the community an opportunity to consider how native vegetation in the district will be managed through the District Plan.
The Council’s role is to consider the views of the entire community and determine a District Plan management framework that strikes a balance between the community’s views and legislative requirements.
Things to consider
- Including SNAs in the District Plan will have no practical effects for landowners who wish to continue to retain and enhance native bush areas on their property. They will not be required to fence or formally protect (covenant) these areas.
- Existing land use rights will continue without requiring a resource consent.
- Landowners with an SNA included in the District Plan are eligible for rates relief. They can also apply to the nature heritage fund for assistance with fencing. Other agencies also provide assistance to landowners. For more details, download the Significant Natural Areas factsheet.