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  Council » Policies and Plans » Waikato Regional Policy Statement: Te Tauākī Kaupapahere Te-Rohe O Waikato » Operative Waikato Regional Policy Statement - Te Tauākī Kaupapahere Te-Rohe O Waikato » PART B » 11 Indigenous biodiversity » Policy 11.2 Protect significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna » Explanation

Explanation

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Policy 11.2 addresses the requirements of s6(c) of the Resource Management Act to protect areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitat of indigenous fauna in terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine environments. The policy and methods recognise that protection of these areas requires that the areas and the characteristics that deem them to be significant are identified, that identification should be carried out in a consistent manner across the region, and that protection will be achieved through both regulatory and non-regulatory methods. Protection of significant sites need not prevent their use where activities will not materially compromise the characteristics or values which deemed the site significant. The enhancement of ecosystem types as identified in Policy 11.1 also applies to significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna in Policy 11.2.

The intention is for areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitat of indigenous fauna to be identified either at a regional scale by Waikato Regional Council (significant natural areas project), or as a consequence of managing activities through regional and district plans (Method 11.2.2). It is important that regional and district plan provisions provide for the identification of additional areas, including those not identified in Method 11.2.1 which are difficult to detect at the regional scale due to limitations in technology. A diagram in section 11B summarises the respective roles and responsibilities. The identification of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna by the Regional Council has been undertaken in accordance with 11A and Table 11-1 criteria, through district-scale vegetation mapping, assessment and review of sites, fauna and vegetation studies, scientific research, primarily as a desktop analysis to which varying degrees of confidence are assigned. Before information is included in regional or district plans further verification and validation may be required to confirm whether the identified areas meet the criteria for significance in section 11A.

Method 11.2.2 reflects a more directive approach to achieving no net loss for areas of significant indigenous biodiversity than Method 11.1.3. This is consistent with s6(c) of the Resource Management Act which requires protection of such biodiversity. The Method seeks avoidance of adverse effects as the most effective means of protecting areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitat of indigenous fauna. It recognises that some loss of or damage to those areas may be unavoidable and in those cases remediation and mitigation is required. Where adverse effects remain after avoidance, remediation and mitigation then more than minor adverse effects are required to be offset. Any loss can be documented and tracked to assist with monitoring the state of the resource.

When applying Method 11.2.2, the expectation is that proposals should reasonably demonstrate that no net loss has been achieved using methodology that is appropriate and commensurate to the scale and intensity of the adverse effects. The application of biodiversity offsetting will be determined on a case by case basis through the decision-making processes.

Method 11.2.2(g) requires that plans shall have regard to the necessity for certain activities to locate in areas of significant indigenous biodiversity where the presence of another resource leads to a functional need for the activity to locate there. Clause (g) does not provide activities with an exemption from the other clauses within Method 11.2.2, it is another matter to be considered through the decision-making process as appropriate.

Method 11.2.3 requires use of the criteria in section 11A to achieve consistency across the region when assessing significance. An area will be considered significant if it meets one or more of the eleven criteria in section 11A.

During the process of identifying areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitat of indigenous fauna, Waikato Regional Council will have the opportunity to identify general threats to the biodiversity at those sites. This information will not be a detailed threat analysis of every site, but Method 11.2.4 signals that the information will be provided to relevant agencies and landowners so that it can be used to direct management of these sites. Information should be managed so that it does not compromise the protection of populations of threatened species.

Map 11C has been inserted as a result of Environment Court decision Opoutere Ratepayers and Residents Association v Waikato Regional Council [2015] NZEnvC 126, which found, after rigorous testing through the Environment Court hearing process, that the area shown is a significant natural ecosystem and site of biological importance. The area identified in Map 11C should not be considered as being of greater significance or importance than other areas in the region that have been identified through the process set out under Policy 11.2 and the associated methods.

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