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Voluntary conservation thriving in Lower Hutt

Press Release – Wainuiomata Rural Community Association Inc
The Environment Court has recently closed the application of Forest & Bird Society that sought to reintroduce Hutt City Council’s withdrawn proposal for Plan Change 46.

The proposed plan change was to apply restrictive “Significant Natural Area” restrictions on over 1200 private properties in Lower Hutt under s.6C of the Resource Management Act 1991.

The failure of the Forest and Bird application confirms and reinforces the Council’s 2018 eventual decision to work collaboratively with private property owners and support their efforts to protect and enhance indigenous biodiversity after an extended period of dispute with local landowners.

Since the Plan Change 46 proposals were withdrawn by the Council on 29 November 2018:

The PC 36 Environment Court case has protected indigenous biodiversity within all residential zones. Property owners must obtain a resource consent from Council to materially remove any indigenous vegetation.

Council has been actively working with a representative group of property owners on how best to support voluntary private efforts.

The Council established a process and budget for property owners to apply for Council support through “Indigenous Biodiversity Grants”.

Over 100 property owners applied for grants. So far 56 applications have been actioned. In addition plants have been sourced and distributed.

Separately, several private property owners have established QE2 Trust “forever protected” covenants over biodiversity on their properties. These areas are monitored by the trust, which funds pest control and protective measures such as fencing

Extensive pest control by long-serving volunteers has continued.

A local landowner, Diana Clark has facilitated the collaboration with property owners. “It wasn’t easy to get started after all the bad feeling generated in 2018. But Council’s promise that information collected from grant applicants would not be used to identify properties for further SNA proposals restored some trust. Since then good progress has been made. Budget allocations already exist for two further years and a further round of grant applications is about to open.”

Deputy Chair of WRCAI, Craig Innes stated ‘The process carried out by Council in 2018 to target private landowners was deeply flawed. It was also unnecessary as about 60% of Lower Hutt’s total land area is publicly owned.’

A significant proportion of the total public land is covered with natural vegetation. Urban reserves such as sports grounds only make up a small proportion of the total district. So protecting and enhancing environmental values on public land, supplemented by voluntary conservation efforts, delivers conservation outcomes few cities in New Zealand or elsewhere can match”.

Authorised by Craig Innes, WRCA Deputy Chair, wainuiomata.rural@gmail.com

Craig Innes is Deputy Chair of WRCAI and experienced with land classification and mapping.

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