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Dispute over significant natural areas in Hutt City

Press Release – POWER inc
Forest & Bird have applied to the Environment Court to compel the Hutt City Council to implement an inappropriate and discredited proposal. That proposal for “District Plan change 46” would impose onerous controls over more than 1,000 Lower Hutt properties, including many that have trivial or no ecological values. It would directly disadvantage over 1,000 Lower Hutt ratepayers and indirectly affect many others.

The applications claim that the Hutt City Council is contravening “its duty to protect areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna”. That is simply untrue. The applications cite only an HCC resolution passed on 29 November 2018. They ignore the clarifications passed at the next Council meeting on 11 December, and wrongly claim HCC refuses to make changes to its District Plan.

The final HCC resolution in fact “requests officers to report back on an action plan… to protect diversity … including any consequential changes to the District Plan”. An initial meeting between the Deputy Mayor and representatives of affected ratepayers was promptly held on 16th December to begin to develop that action plan. Further meetings will occur soon and the Council has committed to inviting wide participation.

Forest & Bird have also asked the Environment Court to waive its own duty as applicant to serve notice on all the affected ratepayers. Instead Forest & Bird want to merely place a notice in the newspaper, after which any affected ratepayers will need to individually apply to the Court and incur possibly hundreds of dollars in fees. That is an outrageous request from a self-appointed body that did not even make a submission on the original proposal, but now wants the Environment Court to impose that proposal on HCC and ratepayers. Ratepayers should not have to pay to be heard!

Forest & Bird’s applications to the Environment Court continue its deliberate misrepresentation of the true position. Many conservationist landowners, ratepayers and volunteers opposed to the proposed SNA controls are already working hard to protect indigenous vegetation and fauna. The efforts of those individuals have contributed to the elimination of many ecological pests and the restoration of indigenous vegetation and bird life to many areas. Further efforts to protect indigenous vegetation and fauna can build on that foundation.

The applications unreasonably try to impose the view of one self-appointed body on the entire community. Even worse, they seek to impose a deeply flawed proposal that was thoroughly discredited by expert evidence on 29 November. HCC has properly resolved to work with ratepayers and other parties to develop a practicable action plan. In fact HCC’s resolution explicitly invites F&B to participate in that positive process. It is disappointing that Forest & Bird have instead chosen to act as “Force and Bully”, wasting the money of ratepayers and their own members.

We hope that Forest & Bird will reconsider and withdraw its inaccurate and premature applications.

Please instead work constructively and practically with HCC, ratepayers and other parties to protect and enhance our indigenous ecology.

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