Balancing values outlined by ECan

Bill Bayfield
Bill Bayfield
Environment Canterbury yesterday released a report detailing 25 recommendations  on how to balance preserving the "outstanding national landscape and biodiversity values" of the Mackenzie Basin with the needs of its landowners and communities.

The 54-page report was commissioned by Environment Canterbury (ECan) along with the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and the Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils.

The report broadly endorsed the Mackenzie Country Trust’s goals of ensuring "the intermontane landscape of the Mackenzie Country retains its natural functioning ecosystems alongside a flourishing and sustainable community".

Further, its recommendations included: establishing "joint hearings as the ‘norm’ for consent applications involving regional and district councils"; holding a six-monthly workshop between agency and farming leaders; possibly expanding the role played by farm environment plans; designating and working towards an area as predator-free in the basin; and creating a more "anticipatory strategic approach" to managing tourism pressures.

In a statement ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield said the five agencies involved were now seeking feedback on "prioritising" in the report’s recommendations.

"There has been substantial change in the basin," Mr Bayfield said.

"Not everyone is happy with it. Changes in natural character, landscape, biodiversity and biosecurity, and water quality are all issues, as are the ability to develop businesses and the rules and consent framework.

"Waitaki District Council planning manager Hamish Barrell said Waitaki district communities like Omarama, Otematata and Ohau had "always regarded their area’s conservation values as special".

"With the expansion of tourism and other development pressures, including land conversion, Waitaki District Council has committed to re-thinking the balance between farming, tourism, new housing proposals and conservation through its district plan review [currently under way]," he said.

The report states a "common understanding" of how intensive farming should be compared with environmental protection had yet to be achieved.

Tenure review would be a "vital tool" for achieving the report’s vision, it says.

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