Environment Waikato has issued an infringement notice to a subdivision developer for clearing the protected geothermal plant prostrate kanuka from a Taupo property.
The developer was fined $750 for the offence.
As a result of the offence, the Regional Council is concerned that landowners in geothermal areas do not know enough about the regional rules protecting rare geothermal features, and is sending out information to everyone identified as owning land with significant geothermal features on it.
Environment Waikato’s Proposed Regional Plan contains rules protecting significant geothermal features and geothermal vegetation.
Prostrate kanuka is unique to New Zealand and is restricted to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty geothermal areas. Resource Officer Roger MacCulloch said clearing vegetation within 20 metres of a significant geothermal feature required a resource consent under the Proposed Regional Plan.
In late September 2003, the developer applied to Environment Waikato for a land use consent to relocate geothermal vegetation, predominantly prostrate kanuka, to allow the development of an industrial subdivision on the site.
New Zealand has only about 280 hectares of prostrate kanuka, and the developer cleared about 0.05 percent of it.
Mr MacCulloch said the actual adverse environmental effects from the clearance work was minor, given the small size of the area cleared. However it was important that Waikato landowners with geothermal features on their land understood the need to protect them.
“Both the classification of significant geothermal features and the rules relating to them have been in existence for some years but have only recently been actively publicised. It may take time for them to become widely known and understood.”