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SNAs on hold

SNAs on hold

A handful of local landowners will be pleased that the pause button has been pushed on requirement to identify Significant Natural Areas (SNAs).

The Government has suspended the requirement for councils to identify and map SNAs for three years while it replaces the Resource Management Act.

Associate environment minister and Act MP Andrew Hoggard made the announcement at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding on Thursday.

He said the suspension was an interim measure to ensure councils and communities did not waste resources and efforts on requirements that were likely to change.

“We’re sending a clear message that it would be unwise to bother," he said.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has welcomed the decision.

B+LNZ chairperson and local Mount Somers farmer Kate Acland said this announcement would be applauded by sheep and beef farmers.

“Our farmers are doing it tough at the moment."

Acland said farmer confidence had dropped over concerns about the expense and feasibility of the previous government’s environmental reform agenda.

B+LNZ had repeatedly told the Labour government the criteria for SNAs was too broad and that more time was needed to test the effects of this and to get the rules right, she said

"Any move to address some of the particularly flawed rules is very welcome."

She said the announcement provided some breathing space while the Government looks at SNAs.

"We look forward to being involved in that review.”

Acland said farmers were "hugely" committed to looking after their land and protecting and enhancing native biodiversity.

"There’s 2.8 million hectares of native vegetation on New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms and that’s something we’re incredibly proud of.

“The current criteria for an SNA are far too broad and will capture huge swathes of sheep and beef farmland, tying up farmers in red tape and penalising those who’ve done the most to look after the native biodiversity on their land."

Unlike areas like the West Coast and Northland where SNAs has become quite contentious, the process of identifying SNAs in the Ashburton District was in its infancy.

By October last year, the Ashburton District Council had started a survey of existing areas of significant nature conservation value and sent letters to five landowners in the region. The letter let landowners know the council had discovered areas the needed further investigation.

Other local areas with SNAs had been identified on Department of Conservation land.

By Sharon Davis