Far North District Council has formally paused the introduction of proposed Significant Natural Area zonings, with one councillor calling for the controversial plans be scrapped.
The move comes after huge public opposition, particularly from Māori landholders.
Mayor John Carter said the major opposition to SNAs had taken everybody by surprise. "Nobody understood the volume of the reaction, not Parliament, Northland Regional Council or Far North District Council."
Organisers are expecting more than 1000 people from across Northland to be part of a protest hikoi converging on FNDC's Kaikohe head office tomorrow.
The controversial new zoning comes as the Government pushes for biodiversity protection on private land across New Zealand via the new National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.
This was originally due for finalisation in October but has been delayed and was now expected later this year. It required Northland Regional Council to create regional rules for SNA introduction with which FNDC had to comply.
Hikoi organiser Reuben Taipari greeted news of FNDC's pause with disdain. "The policy and the surveying to bring (SNAs) in should be wiped. We will still be going ahead with our hikoi. The entire community is up in arms about this."
FNDC sent out 8000 letters to landowners identifying potential SNAs on their land. The submission period for feedback was to close tomorrow.
FNDC councillor Mate Radich said his council should be throwing SNAs out instead of pausing. He said he would be joining Northland's Stop SNAs protest hikoi leaving Cape Reinga today.
"They're an embarrassment to the council and the Government. FNDC should go for the jugular and scrap the whole idea," he said.
He said landowners should not bother to send in submission but "screw up those letters and throw them away".
With the biggest area of Māori land of any council in New Zealand - according to Carter - consultation with multiple owners posed a challenge in the Far North.
Councillor David Clendon said it meant engaging at mana whenua level, working with 240 different marae across the many hapū of the district's 11 mandated iwi authorities.
"The practicalities of that are mindblowing," Clendon said. "I do think central government needs to have a rethink about the practical realities of bringing in SNAs."