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Last month, the council sent letters to nearly 2000 landowners about proposed changes to mapping in the district plan review, advising them the new district plan would increase the level of protection for SNAs, "outstanding and significant natural features", "outstanding natural landscapes" and wahi tupuna (sites and areas of significance to Maori) on their private land. The letters also included maps of the proposed new protective overlays on the properties.
Waitaki landowners hit back at the council, criticising the mapping process and saying the letters did not contain enough information about what the proposed changes meant for them. Many expressed fears about losing productive land and the impacts changes could have on the value of their land.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher announced the pause in the council’s SNA work yesterday. He said there was "too much uncertainty" as the national policy statement for indigenous biodiversity (NPSIB) was still being developed.
"We’re not getting clarity from the Government on what’s going to be in the [NPSIB]," he said.
In the meantime, the council would set up a rural reference group, involving Federated Farmers and other groups, to help with the engagement process and provide a sounding board for drafting the district plan.
Mr Kircher said he hoped the pause would not delay the adoption of the draft district plan for public consultation, but it "could happen".
The Far North District Council has also decided to temporarily halt its work after a protest by local landowners, many of whom own Maori land.
While councils were following central government directives, Mr Kircher acknowledged Waitaki’s engagement process had not been smooth. It was important landowners had a clear idea of what the new overlays and rules meant and why certain areas were included, and that the mapping was fine-tuned, he said.
"This is about just having a bit of a reset so we can get that happening the way we want it to, and they way our community wants us to.