Hutt City Council is working to identify and protect areas of high coastal natural character in Lower Hutt. Council is responsible under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the national and regional policies that stem from it, for ensuring these valuable areas are adequately conserved, enhanced and protected for the future.
What are High Coastal Natural Character areas?
High Coastal Natural Character areas are areas in the coastal environment that have been identified as having high or very high levels of natural character.
Why is council doing this work?
Lower Hutt has an extensive coastline stretching from the Petone foreshore, through Eastbourne, to Pencarrow and the Turakirae Heads.
The RMA sets out “the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment” as a matter of national importance. The RMA requires the protection of these areas from “inappropriate subdivision, use, and development”.
The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS) is a national policy that stems from the RMA. It requires local authorities to map or otherwise identify (at least) areas of high natural character in the coastal environment.
The Wellington Regional Policy Statement requires district plans to include policies and rules to protect high natural character in the coastal environment from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development.
Currently there are no provisions in the Hutt City Council District Plan to protect areas of high coastal natural character on private land. This does not ensure that these valuable areas are adequately protected. Council needs to ensure it meets its obligations under the RMA, the NZCPS, and the Wellington Regional Policy Statement.
How were sites chosen?
Council commissioned an assessment of natural character in the coastal environment of Lower Hutt. This was carried out by ecologists and landscape architects from Boffa Miskell Consultants, which has extensive experience doing similar assessments.
Boffa Miskell first spatially defined the inland extent of the coastal environment, which was defined as areas where “coastal processes, influences, or qualities are significant”. The coastal environment was then broken up into sub-areas, which were evaluated in relation to three attributes: ‘abiotic’, ‘biotic’ and ‘experiential’. The natural character ratings for each attribute were combined to determine the overall level of natural character. Each area was then assessed at a finer scale to identify components, which have high or very high levels of natural character.
The coastline of Hutt City was broken into four sub-areas: Petone, the Eastern Bays, Pencarrow Head, and Turakirae Head. The assessment found the Petone coastal area to be of low-moderate natural character, the Eastern Bays to be moderate, Pencarrow Head high, and Turakirae Head very high.
What will this mean for my property?
If your property has been identified as containing or being part of an area of high coastal natural character, this may place some constraints on what you can and cannot do with your property. This could affect:
• the placement of new buildings
• subdivision – to avoid new building areas and driveways in sensitive areas.
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 officer may be arranged to verify that features or aspects of their property qualify as high coastal natural character areas.
Land owners can contact the District Plan team on 04 570 6905 or firstname.lastname@example.org