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Hutt South MP Chris Bishop is reiterating his call for the Hutt City Council to immediately halt its “Significant Natural Area” (SNA) process and go back to the drawing board.

“Last night more than 150 landowners attended a standing room only public meeting to voice their displeasure at the way the SNA process is being carried out by the Council. Their anger was palpable, and the Council must listen.

“This process has been a debacle from the start. Around 1500 letters were sent out of the blue to residents all around the Hutt telling them their land (or part of their land) has been identified as being part of a “Significant Natural Area”. The restrictions that could potentially be imposed on this land are quite significant - including stopping not only sub-division, vegetation clearance, earthworks, but also possibly vege gardens, playhouses or BBQ patios a few metres from residents’ homes.

“It was good to see Mayor for Lower Hutt Ray Wallace at the meeting and fielding questions. He should heed the calls of landowners and now start the SNA process all over again.

“Nobody doubts that the Council has legal obligations under the RMA. What is in dispute is the way the Council is going about giving effect to those obligations.

“The Council’s approach is actually undermining good conservation outcomes. Council should be working with not against landowners. Private landowners already do a huge amount to protect our biodiversity. But the council’s heavy-handed approach has set the community against them and will have the opposite effect of what is intended.

“Other Councils have undertaken to protect significant natural areas by engaging in good faith with affected landowners, working in conjunction with them, and approaching things on a case-by-case basis.

“That’s what the Council should do now. Throw out the current process and start again.”

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