Mail from the Central Hawke's Bay District Council usually means they are demanding something from you.

There is the expected — rates, dog registrations, RMA bill payments; but this time, it's your land!

During its long-awaited review of the District Plan, the Central Hawke's Bay District Council has identified Significant Natural Areas.

Councils have an obligation under Section 6 of the Resource Management Act (RMA) to protect significant areas of native vegetation and native creatures.


These days, most councils around the country identify Significant Natural Areas as their main tool of meeting this obligation. Normally rules limiting vegetation clearance, earthworks, land use and grazing are imposed on these areas.

Significant Natural Areas are usually identified by an ecologist looking at aerial photos. They are not limited to only Department of Conservation land, or QEII covenants, they can be identified on any area of native bush the council thinks is significant.

It is vital farmers check the council maps they have been sent, and get in touch with the council if the maps are wrong.

The council may have accidentally identified areas of gorse, exotics or poor-quality bush. The boundaries might need adjusting. This will trigger a process where the ecologist takes a closer look and might want to go on your site.

Federated Farmers opposes inaccurate mapping of Significant Natural Areas, and rules that are too strict to let normal farming activities continue. The Hawke's Bay Region has a whopping 11,430ha of land in QEII covenants, so landowners already do a good job of protecting bush without excessive council intervention.

Because Central Hawke's Bay's District Plan has been a slow train coming, this council unfortunately now has 20 years of snowballing RMA expectations to catch up with.

Federated Farmers is bracing itself for the old low-intervention CHB Plan to be replaced with a tome to rival War and Peace.

The Hastings District Plan was hundreds of pages long, with 80 appendices: mapping and regulating 47 zones, plus five different types of landscape area, seven precincts and a whole lot of other small features and areas.


Let's hope that Central Hawke's Bay's version is more succinct.

• Rhea Dasent is a senior policy adviser for Federated Farmers