Tiaki Taiao – Significant Natural Areas and Landscapes

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We have been working to identify important natural areas, native bush and landscapes in Upper Hutt. Before we undertake a Plan Change we want to make sure we have identified the right areas and the values within them.

Since September 2020 we’ve been engaging with landowners and the wider community to discuss the important natural areas, native bush and landscapes in Upper Hutt (Plan Change 48) in more detail.

Big thanks to those who took the time to engage with us and provide feedback during the first round of engagement. We:

  • Received 216 enquiries
  • Carried out 87 site visits
  • held 12 meetings at Council
  • Attended 6 community meetings
What is Tiaki Taiao?

Tiaki Taiao means taking care of our environment and natural heritage. This reflects the process we are undertaking now to identify important natural landscapes, features, or areas of land with special wildlife, plants, and trees that are native and important to the biodiversity of our city.

Cannon Point Walkway

To qualify sites need to:

  • be a natural ecosystem that is no longer commonplace; or
  • have biological or physical features that are scarce or threatened; or
  • have diverse ecology, species and physical features; or
  • connect ecosystems or habitats for rare indigenous species; or
  • have significance to Tangata Whenua; or
  • be dominated by natural elements, patterns and processes in order to be considered outstanding natural features and landscapes; or
  • be highly valued by the community with dominant natural elements, patterns and processes but where the landscape is clearly modified by human activity, to be considered a special amenity landscape.
Where are these areas?

 Many of the initial draft SNA areas have been amended following site visits undertaken during the first round of engagement.

Enter your address into the Webmap below to see the updated layers.

Click here to launch Webmap

Draft assessments:

Draft provisions:

Why do we need to do this?

Why do we need to do this? This work is part of a nationwide Resource Management Act (RMA) requirement involving all Councils. Section 6(b) and 6(c) requires the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes and areas of significant indigenous vegetation as a matter of national importance. Since 2013 policies in the Greater Wellington Regional Councils Regional Policy Statement (RPS) have required all city councils to identify and protect these areas.

The RMA expressly states councils must give effect to the RPS. Councils are at different stages of introducing policies and rules to protect these habitats. We are at an informal stage of the process to update the District Plan (Plan Change 48) which includes engaging with landowners on the draft areas and provisions. Right now we are sharing the draft provisions for feedback from landowners and will consider the feedback as part of preparing the plan change to the district plan for public notification later this year.

Q: What are Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes?

A: Natural landscapes and features that are exceptional with natural components that dominate over the influence of human activity. They are assessed as part of a landscape evaluation process, taking into account factors such as natural science, sensory elements and the shared and recognised values of these areas.

Q: What is a Special Amenity Landscape?

A: These landscapes are distinctive, widely recognised and highly valued areas where the natural components are dominant or they may be exceptional landscape areas but have been modified by human activity. The evaluation process takes into account factors such as natural science, sensory elements and the shared and recognised values of these areas.

Q: How did you get ecological information about my property?

A: Ecologists completed a desktop study that was based mainly on aerial imagery, local site references and public viewing spots. We then wrote to people with land in these areas, asking them to let us know if they thought there was anything not right about the information. We also offered one of our ecologists to visit the site. Many landowners took us up on that offer and in most cases that resulted in refinements to the overlays including some being removed. The updated results are on the Council website.

Q: Why are you contacting me?

 A: We identified all the properties within the district that had a draft SNA or landscape overlay on it and contacted those landowners in September last year. We are now following up again as promised to share the draft policies and rules for those areas which incorporate some of the feedback we received over this time. Please provide comments through the Councils ‘Lets Korero’ website .

Q: How were Significant Natural Areas identified?

A: We worked with ecological specialists Wildlands to map Upper Hutt’s threatened indigenous flora and fauna based on Department of Conservation classification. We also talked to local iwi.

Policy 23 of the Regional Policy Statement for the Wellington region states ‘District and regional plans shall identify and evaluate indigenous ecosystems and habitats with significant indigenous biodiversity values; these ecosystems and habitats will be considered significant if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

Representativeness: the ecosystems or habitats that are typical and characteristic examples of the full range of the original or current natural diversity of ecosystem and habitat types in a district or in the region, and:

  1. Are no longer commonplace (less than about 30 % remaining)
  2. Are poorly represented in existing protected areas (less than about 20 % legally protected)

Rarity: the ecosystem or habitat has biological or physical features that are scarce or threatened in a local, regional, or national context. This can include individual species, rare and distinctive biological communities and physical features that are unusual or rare. 
Diversity: the ecosystem or habitat has a natural diversity of ecological units, ecosystems, species and physical features within an area
Ecological context of an area: the ecosystem or habitat:

  1. Enhances connectivity or otherwise buffers representative, rare or diverse indigenous ecosystems and habitats, or
  2. Provides seasonal or core habitat for protected or threatened indigenous species

Tangata Whenua Values: the ecosystem or habitat contains characteristics of special spiritual, historical or cultural significance to tangata whenua, identified in accordance with Tikanga Māori'.

Q: How were the landscape areas identified?

A: We worked with landscape specialists Isthmus to map Upper Hutt’s outstanding natural features and landscapes and special amenity landscapes. The methodology is based on current landscape best practice, case law and the Regional Policy Statement criteria (Policy 25) which requires the natural science, sensory and shared and recognised factors of the district to be assessed. The assessment also considered historic and tangata whenua values and included input from local iwi. More detail on the method for identifying the landscape areas is included in the landscape assessment report by Isthmus.

Q: How can I provide feedback?

A: We are encouraging people to provide feedback via Council’s ‘Lets Korero’ webpage. This way we can ensure all the responses are collected in the same place and the responses can be matched to the draft provisions. We can also accept feedback via email at planning@uhcc.govt.nz. All feedback should be provided by Monday 9th August 2021.

Q: What are the next steps?

Here’s what has happened so far and what will happen next:

  • September 2020 to February 2021, we engaged with landowners, undertook site visits, updated the field assessments, prepared draft provisions based on peoples feedback and refined the overlays.
  • We also engaged with iwi authorities while undertaking the draft assessments and shared the maps for SNA and Landscapes with them. We will continue to engage with them through the plan change process.
  • By March 2021 we had provided an update to every landowner that requested a site visit, and confirmed any changes to the draft overlay area.
  • Right now we are sharing the draft policy and rule framework that will support the plan change and providing landowners the ability to provide feedback on those provisions.
  • We will be reviewing the feedback as part of finalising the draft plan change chapters. 
  • We expect to notify the plan change formally towards the end of 2021 in accordance with the Resource Management Act.
  • All landowners will be contacted and will have the opportunity to make a submission on the proposed plan change when it is notified.

 

Q: Why are we not pausing consultation in light of recent media reports about this issue in the Far North?

A: We have contacted the Ministry for the Environment who advised that we should continue to implement our statutory requirements in the Wellington Regional Policy Statement and Resource Management Act. They have further advised us to continue to engage landowners and iwi on the draft District Plan provisions.

Councillors have decided to proceed with this is next stage of engagement as it is important to clarify what the draft provisions would mean for landowners within the identified landscapes and significant natural areas and provides a further opportunity for landowner feedback.

Q: What's the effect of the SNA overlays on my property?

A. The draft SNA overlays are where the draft rules will apply. As such, the draft rules only apply in those areas, not outside them.

There are a range of rules, some providing for permitted activities within the SNA where no resource consent is needed, including trimming or removal of indigenous vegetation for;

  • Addressing an imminent threat to people or property from deadwood or dying vegetation;
  • Clearance from within any formed public road or rail corridor, private access leg, driveway or right of way;
  • Removal within 3m from the external wall or roof of a building;
  • Maintaining, upgrading or creating a new access track for farming activities in the rural zone, subject to standards;
  • Construct new stock or pest animal fences (clearance up to 2m in width);
  • Firewood collection for domestic use subject to standards;
  • Beekeeping and associated access tracks;
  • To comply with section 43 of the Fire and Emergency Act 2017;
  • Maintenance of existing firebreaks; and
  • To enable tangata whenua to exercise customary harvesting.

Other activities require a resource consent application to be made to council to consider the effect of the proposed activity on the biodiversity values of the SNA. A full copy of the draft policies and rules is available on this website.

Q: Are these additional restrictions on land uses?

A: These are replacement provisions. They will replace the existing ‘indigenous vegetation clearance’ rules already in the District Plan which currently apply to all indigenous vegetation in the city. The new draft rules will replace the existing rules and will only apply in the mapped overlay areas. So you can compare these here is a Link to the existing rules(PDF, 4MB) .

Q: Why do we need new rules?

A. The Council is required to regularly review and update the provisions in the district plan every 10 years. This plan change has been signalled in the District Plan since 2004. The current rules came into effect in 2013 and since then the statutory direction requiring the council to identify and protect areas of important ecological and landscape areas has changed. The draft new rules are a refinement of the existing provisions, providing better clarity about where the rules apply and for what reason, while also ensuring Council meets its statutory responsibilities.

Q: Will I have to actively look after the SNA area on my property

A. There is no requirement to actively look after the identified SNA area on your property, although we acknowledge that many landowners already do through planting additional indigenous vegetation, removing exotic plants and undertaking pest animal and pest plant control. The rules expressly recognise and provide for such conservation and restoration activities as a permitted activity without any need for resource consent.

Q: What financial or other assistance is available to landowners?

A: There have been requests from landowners to have rates relief for landowners affected by these features and consideration of financial assistance is occurring in parallel with the development of the plan change.

Some biodiversity funding and support is currently available with more details on Greater Wellington Regional Councils Biodiversity Funding site. For those looking to actively protect areas of significant indigenous biodiversity on their land details around creating a QEII Open Space Covenant can be found on the QEII National Trust site.

 

Click here to launch Let's Korero Tiaki Taiao