Northland landowners are being urged to look closely at proposed new significant natural area zoning biodiversity protections on land across the region.
Northland Regional Council (NRC) councillor Joce Yeoman said it was important landowners took note of the significant natural areas (SNAs).
Yeoman's comments come as controversy erupts as Far North District Council (FNDC) seeks feedback after sending out 8000 letters to property owners with identified SNAs, seeking online response before May 24. Heated landowner response has this week forced that deadline's extension until June 11.
The policy has been labelled a modern-day "land grab" by some opponents.
"The conversation in the Far North is an extremely important one with significant and far-reaching implications, not only for Māori but for all landowners. It's important the discussion is being generated," Yeoman, NRC's planning and regulatory working party chairman, said.
Thousands of hectares across Northland's almost 1.4 million hectares have recently been mapped, identifying proposed SNAs across thousands of properties aimed at protecting native biodiversity. This work, across the Far North, Whangārei and Kaipara districts, was led by NRC in response to new Government legislation requirements.
Far North landowner Reuben Taipari Porter (Ngāpuhui, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu and Tuhoe) has been protesting outside FNDC's Kaitaia office against SNAs.
Mid North farmer Kate Lowe has organised an opposition meeting for affected landowners in Kawakawa on Wednesday, aiming to lead a rebellion against the new Government plans for SNAs.
Tangata whenua are also organising meetings in opposition around the North.
Ben Lee, NRC general manager strategy, governance and engagement, said NRC supported FNDC's SNAs mapping work.
"The whole of Northland, all of the district councils have been mapped. FNDC just happens to be the first cab off the rank," Lee said.
Councils had an obligation under the Resource Management Act to protect biodiversity and SNAs were a key approach to doing this.
Julianne Chetham of Patuharakeke Te Iwi Trust Board said SNAs were a case of the Crown as Māori Treaty of Waitangi partner undermining that partnership.
"That's essentially where the issue lands, " Chetham said.
SNAs featured strongly at the working party's quarterly meeting on Wednesday. Chetham is a planning and regulatory working party member.
She said Māori had already suffered intergenerational trauma as a result of mapping through the decades.
Mira Norris of Te Parawhau Hapū Authority Trust, who is also a working party member, spoke against the new categories. More than 1000 hectares of the Mohinui block at Waima that she was connected to were significantly affected.
"They're quite invasive, these SNAs," Norris said.
Lee told the meeting how the mapping was used and about the areas managed that should be the most important focus of debate.
"It's very important to map our biodiversity. Then the question of how we manage that can be looked at. That's where the focus should be," Lee said.
Norris said SNAs across large chunks of Māori land meant Māori wouldn't be able to use their land as they had done to date.