SNAs set traps for farmers

May 21, 2014

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.


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