Federated Farmers is telling Central Hawke's Bay District Council what works and doesn't work for farmers when it comes to council mapping and regulation of Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes (ONFL).

The district council has identified 12 such zones — some are massive, like the Ruahine Range; some are smaller, like the Te Whata Kokako hill.

While the RMA compels councils to protect outstanding natural features and landscapes in their District Plans, it can be done in a way that doesn't disrupt property rights or day-to-day farming.

For one: proper criteria are needed to make sure the land that is mapped and protected truly has outstanding values. Any old scenic farmland shouldn't be mapped, only land that meets strict criteria.

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Secondly, where an ONFL is on a farm, existing agriculture should be recognised as being appropriate and not a threat to outstanding values.

Fencing, tracking and shelter belts, cultivation, grazed pasture, seasonal and permanent crops, sheds and houses are all evident when we look over a landscape that is used for farming.

Believe it or not, some district plans neglect to mention existing land use, making it sound like the ONFL is untouched by people.

Thirdly, Federated Farmers expects that farming will be able to adapt and change without the need for resource consent so long as it is still under the umbrella of "farming".

Rules that stop turning the special feature into a high-rise office complex are acceptable, rules that prevent farming are not.

The council has drafted a rule restricting buildings on ONFLs to only 25 square metres floor area, and 3 metres height. Such a small building couldn't be used to park a tractor or store cultivation equipment, or to keep hay dry. The limits are suitable only for pump and tool sheds. In comparison, the Hastings District Plan has a floor area of 50m2 for the big ONLs (eg. Kahuranaki, Maunga-hururu and Titiokura ranges.)

Federated Farmers recommends to the council that floor area limits and building height limits are set for each individual ONFL. This will allow a horses for courses approach, with the big farmed ONFLs to have bigger building limits of 100m2 plus, and small discreet ONLs to have the stricter limit of 25m2.

• Rhea Dasent is a senior regional policy adviser for Federated Farmers

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