Hutt City Council is working to identify and protect outstanding natural features, outstanding natural landscapes and special amenity landscapes in Lower Hutt. Council is responsible under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Wellington Regional Policy Statement for ensuring these valuable areas are adequately conserved, enhanced and protected for the future.
What are outstanding natural features, outstanding natural landscapes and special amenity landscapes?
Outstanding natural features and outstanding natural landscapes are landscapes or distinct landforms that have been identified as being exceptional or out of the ordinary.
Special amenity landscapes are highly valued landscapes, including exceptional landscapes in areas modified by human activity.
Why is council doing this work?
The RMA lists “the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development” as a matter of national significance. The Wellington Regional Policy Statement requires Hutt City Council to identify outstanding natural features and landscapes, and include policies and rules in its District Plan to protect them from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development.
The Wellington Regional Policy Statement also requires councils to include policies, rules and/or methods in their district plans to manage “special amenity landscapes” where they have been identified.
Currently, there are no provisions in the Hutt City Council District Plan to protect outstanding natural features, outstanding natural landscapes, or special amenity landscapes on private land. This does not ensure these valuable areas are adequately protected. Council needs to ensure it meets its obligations under the RMA and the Regional Policy Statement.
How were the sites chosen?
Council commissioned landscape architects and landscape planners from Boffa Miskell Consultants to carry out an evaluation of Lower Hutt’s landscapes.
The evaluation first identified candidate sites – natural features and landscapes with values that could potentially be significant – and then conducted a landscape character study. The distinction between “landscape” and “feature” is one of scale, with “landscapes” covering wide areas while “features” are distinct landforms that may be contained within a landscape.
Sites were assessed against three evaluation factors: “natural science”, “sensory” and “shared and recognised factors”, each with several sub-criteria. Each site was then assessed on a seven point scale from “very low” to “very high”.
To be considered “outstanding”, each site had to score at least “high” in “natural science” or “sensory” factors, and score “very high” in one of these factors.
To be considered a special amenity landscape, sites had to score at least “high” in “shared and recognised factors” and “high” in at least one other factor or score “very high” in “shared and recognised factors”.
This evaluation identified the South Coast, Somes Island and Rimutaka Ranges as outstanding natural landscapes; and Turakirae Head, Baring Head, Parangārahu Lakes, and Ward Island as outstanding natural features. It also identified the Belmont Hills, Eastbourne Hills, Eastern Escarpment, and the Hutt River as special amenity landscapes.
What will this mean for my property?
If your property has been identified as containing or being part of an outstanding natural feature, outstanding natural landscape, or special amenity landscape, 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.
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 outstanding natural features, outstanding natural landscapes of special amenity landscapes.
Land owners can contact the District Plan team on 04 04 570 6905 or firstname.lastname@example.org