Westland Mayor blasts conservationists over wetlands

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith. Photo: NZ Herald
Westland Mayor Bruce Smith. Photo: NZ Herald

By Lois Williams, Local democracy reporter

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith has blasted conservationists lamenting the loss of wetlands on the West Coast.

Forest and Bird says Coasters have damaged or destroyed more wetlands (10,700ha) than landowners in any region except Southland in the past 20 years.

And in the four years to 2018 the region lost 153ha of wetland - mostly drained for farming.

Mr Smith said the conservation group continued to allege that hard-working Coasters were the enemy of the environment. But the area involved was miniscule, he said

"The West Coast covers 2.3 million hectares of land, and 1.9 million hectares of that is controlled by the Department of Conservation.

"The 153ha mentioned is 0.000066% of the total Coast land area. Are they serious?"

The process now under way of identifying and protecting Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) was deemed to be in the public interest but was straightforward theft of private property, Mr Smith said.

"There's no compensation and the landowner is left to pay the rates and do the fencing and meet his mortgage.

"As iwi put it, it's the biggest land grab on South Islanders since the colonial purchases. Regional New Zealand will not sit by and watch the land being stolen."

The Greymouth Star has asked the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage if the government agrees the West Coast may be a special case when it comes to SNAs, given the amount of land already protected in the Conservation estate (most recent estimates suggest 87%).

The paper has also asked the Minister if the Government is giving any consideration to landowners who would lose potential use of their land, and their existing property rights, if it is identified as SNA.

SNAs are defined as areas generally over 0.5 a of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitat of indigenous fauna.

An estimated 15% of private land on the Coast could potentially fall into that category.

The West Coast Regional Council has said landowners would not automatically be refused consent to develop a SNA but their plans would be have to be assessed against set criteria, along with any mitigation measures.

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Comments

The mayor is typical of the greedisgoodites who think the natural environment is infinite and the damage that they do is insignificant. The same type as those who think the sea is that large that farm and industrial pollution won't harm it, and the sky is that big coal and oil emissions won't alter it.
These stone age attitudes are what is killing this planet and the little beauty that remains. While the mayor just thinks about money in the short term and to Hell with the grandchildren of today's children. To the Hell he and his ilk are creating.

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