Hutt City Council is working to identify and protect areas of significant biodiversity in Lower Hutt. Council is responsible under the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the Wellington Regional Policy Statement for ensuring these valuable ecological sites are adequately conserved, enhanced and protected for the future.
In the mid-19th Century, the Hutt Valley was covered in dense forest and swamp, rich in native bird and aquatic life. Since then, development has increasingly put pressure on Lower Hutt’s areas of high ecological value.
What are Significant Natural Areas?
Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) are areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna.
Why is council doing this work?
Lower Hutt is still home to large areas of significant biodiversity. Under the RMA, and the Regional Policy Statement that stems from the RMA, Hutt City Council is responsible for determining important terrestrial natural areas and ensuring they are protected.
The Resource Management Act lists “the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna” as a matter of national significance. The Wellington Regional Policy Statement requires Hutt City to identify and protect indigenous ecosystems and habitats in its district plan.
Currently, there are no provisions in the District Plan to protect significant ecosystems on private land. This leaves the responsibility of protecting biodiversity at the discretion of landowners on a voluntary basis. This does not ensure these valuable ecosystems are adequately protected, leaving them vulnerable.
Council needs to ensure it meets its obligations to the RMA and Regional Policy Statement.
How were sites chosen?
Council commissioned a technical assessment of ecosystems in Lower Hutt. This was carried out by Wildlands Consultants, which has extensive experience doing similar ecological assessments.
Under this assessment ecosystems are considered significant if they meet one or more of the following criteria:
- representativeness – have characteristic examples of the original ecosystem that are no longer commonplace
- rarity – have biological or physical features that are scarce or threatened
- diversity – have a natural diversity of ecology, species and physical features
- ecological context – enhances connectivity between ecosystems or provides habitat for rare indigenous species.
What will this mean for my property?
If your property has been identified as containing or being part of an SNA, this may place some constraints on what you can and cannot do with your property. This could affect:
- vegetation clearance
- the placement of new buildings
- subdivision – to avoid new building areas and driveways in sensitive areas.
However, allowances will be made for vegetation clearance for things such as:
- maintaining existing open areas, including tracks
- establishing and maintaining a reasonable cleared area around a building
- maintaining lawfully established activities, structures and buildings
- providing for a dwelling on a site and vehicle access to that dwelling
- for Maori customary use
- managing fire risk
- providing access for emergency service vehicles.
As well as some restrictions, we are also looking to develop a range of support and incentives to be made available for landowners to protect SNAs.
This could include:
- allowing additional development rights in exchange for protecting SNAs
- free advice and promotion of ecological protection
- rates relief for ecological protection and enhancement
- free or discounted materials for the use of ecological enhancement.
What is the next step?
Over the next few months, land owners are encouraged to contact Council to ask questions and discuss the sites on their properties identified by Council. If required, site visits by a consultant and/or Council ecologist may be arranged to verify that features on their property qualify as SNAs.
Land owners can contact the District Plan team on 04 570 6905 or firstname.lastname@example.org