SNAs set traps for farmers

Farmers who’ve allowed wetlands to be surveyed are upset they face restrictions less conservation-minded landowners don’t.

Conservation-minded farmers are annoyed about being penalised by agreeing to wetlands and other natural assets being surveyed, when other Hurunui farmers don’t have rulemakers coming down hard on them.

Members of the Hurunui SNA Group says the Resource Management Act (RMA) disadvantages them, and the group is urging farmers to not allow any more surveys on private land, trapping them in the RMA system, until the legislation is changed.

The group’s farmers say they have to apply for resource consent to fertilise around listed Significant Natural Areas (SNA), when non-surveyed landowners are free of these requirements.

Interested farm buyers have shied away from at least one farm because of its SNAs, and other farmers are worried that this will lower their own land values.

Group spokesman Jamie McFadden said landowners had chosen to leave and care for native bush on their land when they could have easily cleared it.

“These landowners feel aggrieved and angry that seemingly because of their generosity in protecting native bush on their land, they are then trapped in a compulsory regulatory system that does nothing to help them continue to look after these areas.”

McFadden is a Hurunui farm- raised landscaper specialising in planting native plants on farms.

He said QEII Trust covenanting was a much better system, as landowners agreed to conditions that could not be changed without their agreement, and the trust helped with fencing and weed control.

“With the RMA-SNA regulatory system, landowners have no choice, there is no flexibility on rules – one size fits all – and the rules can change at any time, even without the landowner’s knowledge or approval.”

McFadden said that when landowners worked with the Hurunui District Council on a biodiversity strategy for the district, they never expected that Environment Canterbury could come over the top and apply its rules to SNAs on private land, such as not applying fertiliser within 10 metres of listed natural assets.

The regulations were counterproductive, because native shrubs and trees were being cleared by landowners unwilling to be caught in the system or by future rules, he said. . .

When farmers see registering SNAs have this perverse outcome it puts them off doing the right thing and it’s not just with bush and wetlands.

A farming couple had a request from a student who wanted to look for evidence of a rare insect species on their property.

They were happy to do so until neighbours warned them not to.

They’d allowed a student to do something similar on their farm then had restrictions placed on what they could do as a result of what was found.

When conservation conflicts with property rights it’s the latter which comes second and landowners pay a high price which puts them off  trying to be conservation and community minded.

6 Responses to SNAs set traps for farmers

  1. Dave Kennedy says:

    Ele, you make some good points, there could be greater recognition and support for farmers who see the importance of biodiversity and are protecting areas of wetland and native bush on their farms. This is something the Greens have recognized but is an area where we possibly could do more: https://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/rma_reform_options_to_enhance_biodiversity_april_2014.pdf

    I was privileged to know a farmer who was ahead of his time in protecting and enhancing biodiversity on his farm and it actually enhanced the quality of his lifestyle and did not effect the profitability of his farm. http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/don-lamont-1922-2013-great-southern-man.html

    However, if some farmers experience substantial disadvantage through attempting to do the right thing, this is a concern. We all benefit from their efforts to protect natural areas on their properties.

  2. Gravedodger says:

    On the property we owned in the Wairarapa we fenced off an area of around 3 Ha of remnant lowland forest including Matai, Totara and Kahikatea with regenerating lowland shrub on the edge.
    I inquired about getting Regional Authority or Catchment Board as it was then, and Queen Elizabeth trust assistance with the cost of fencing but very quick smart ceased discussion when the erosion of rights quickly became a serious threat to our freehold title.

    A decade later we decided reluctantly, to remove a very large old Matai that was creating an access problem by shading and associated prevention of sufficient drying on our very constrained main track.
    That action was not a problem as I required no consent but when a good mate was building a new home and very quickly accepted an offer to have the tree milled for a feature staircase, difficulties arose.
    Had I just cut the tree down and turned it into firewood it was of zero interest to any other person, group or entity, but because I wished to create something worthwhile from the timber all hell broke out.
    No one would go near Milling it either in a fixed mill nor any of the proliferation of portables then around.

    I had to apply to the New Zealand Forest Service Hokitika, if you please, and they were completely flummoxed for the simple reason we were “gifting” the sawlogs.
    An early question was “do you have any idea of the value of the timber” to which our reply was no, and we had no wish to know, it was of absolutely no consequence.
    Finally after months of argy bargy including a requirement to map and identify every mature matai on our property some 150 from memory, plus photographic evidence sufficient to ID the target tree a permit was issued to mill.

    The end result was stunning, many thought the stairs were made from rimu but who would have thought gifting something beautiful from a freehold property could cause such angst for so many for whom the whole deal was not any of their business.

    Btw as an aside two other Matai in close proximity were dieing from some fungal disease and no one would consider milling them either, but both ended up in our log fire, Come to think of it maybe it was Gaia who burnt our freakin house to the ground c1990.

    All too often property and personal rights long established in our inherited English law are rapidly subsumed by a few wannabees who have never considered such history to have relevance when their misguided interest is alerted and can be fulfilled using opms.
    My advice born from many precedents is don’t give the suckers an even break it will in all likelyhood be your own arse that gets burnt.

  3. Dave Kennedy says:

    I can understand your frustration, Gravedodger.

    Proposed changes to the RMA will require that every important tree or area of natural significance has to be individually identified to enable protection. While it would be great to preserve the last remaining patches of natural vegetation in highly developed areas we do need a greater degrees of commonsense coming to play.

    Gravedodger I thought that the QE11 Trust provided great support, was it the protection in perpetuity part that you had difficulty with? However, you obviously value our natural heritage, it’s a pity that some landholders don’t.

    http://www.openspace.org.nz/Site/About_QEII/News/High_Court_rules_in_favour_of_QEII_National_Trust.aspx

  4. Gravedodger says:

    Davek it was the loss of property rights without compensation.
    The tree in the tale above was not withing the remnant block and the costs and time to deal with my tree was the problem I saw. Clearly any subsidised fencing to protect extinguished all property rights and that in my book is too high a price.

    It seems to be rather unfair that a tree I regarded as one of many, in a purely commercial and practical sense was deemed to be better removed should not be the legal preserve of some well intentioned advocate with no skin in the game other than a wish to see it preserved.

    Meritorius aims of schemes such as SNAs will faulter more and more and that will seem sad but when losses are not compensated who would expect otherwise.

    We have what some suggest is a scheme even better than QEll here on the Peninsula that goes someway to protect sites with less draconian repercussions in proscribing traditional property rights.

  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    “We have what some suggest is a scheme even better than QEll here on the Peninsula”

    Can you provide me a link or more information, I’m keen to hear more. I know there are different views on what should determine property rights, but at the end of the day what we really need is more of these areas protected and the people who allow it to happen be valued.

  6. Mr E says:

    Dave said it, I concur, Ele you do make some good points.

    Dave, good on you for thinking about the barriers that face conservation.

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