Owners upset over landscape changes

Waitaki rural residents have reacted with concern to letters sent by the district council to nearly 2000 landowners about proposed changes to mapping in the district plan review.

Earlier this month, Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power sent letters to affected landowners, advising them the new district plan would increase the level of protection for "significant natural areas", "outstanding and significant natural features", "outstanding natural landscapes" and "sites and areas of significance to Maori" on their land.

The letters also included maps of the new protective overlays on their properties, and a link to a survey for feedback.

Federated Farmers North Otago president Jared Ross said the letters did not contain enough information and, for most landowners, the proposed changes came as a surprise.

The council held an online meeting on Monday night, with the landscape architects Graham Densem and Anne Steven, to explain the mapping process and answer any questions.

However, the link that had been previously advertised was updated at the last minute, so some people were unable to access the meeting.

The council said a recording of the meeting, which about 80 people tuned in to, would be uploaded to its website this week.

Mr Ross said the council needed to start working more constructively with farmers, rather than uniting them through "fear or worry".

He was concerned about how "public imagination" in identifying significant natural features was taking "an absolute precedent over freehold land".

"There’s very much an element of subjectiveness to it," he said.

"It is a gradual erosion of property rights."

Mr Ross has been lobbying the council to do an assessment of the economic impact of changes to the district plan. It could be significant for the Waitaki district, he said.

"We’ve got to make sure we’re taking an approach to it that doesn’t lead to some particularly grim financial outcomes, which a lot of what we’ve seen in recent times certainly do.

"We need to make sure people have an appreciation of what those things mean.

"Some people are happy to accept the cost being worn by someone else, rather than contributing themselves, and we’re hearing a lot of that in the zero carbon space.

"The council’s got a responsibility to provide our community with a balanced picture."

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said while the council was following central government directives, "we also have a duty to our communities to allow for farming, development, and to allow community aspirations to have their place, too".

Council heritage and planning manager Hamish Barrell said there would be plenty of opportunities for landowners to engage in the process.

The council was trying to be proactive in contacting landowners for their feedback, before wider public consultation.

The council had extended its deadline for survey responses from May 21 until June 4.

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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