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Softly, Softly on the Ranges

Media Release
27 May 2004

Softly, Softly on the Ranges

Waitakere City Council is taking a cautious approach to long term protection of the Waitakere Ranges.

Last night the Council decided to extend consultation on a plan which may better protect the Waitakere Ranges and their foothills from development.

Over the past 18 months the Council, together with local MP’s David Cunliffe and Lynne Pillay, the Auckland Regional Council, local iwi, property owners and other stakeholders have been looking at how the unique environment of the Ranges, a regenerating rainforest, can be protected.

The project was sparked by some community group suggestions that the current protection for the Ranges may not be sufficient in the long term- despite a large part of the bush area having been made a regional park, District Plan rules and Council funding to combat pests and weeds.

Research was conducted on the state of the Ranges and foothills, what values people place on them, and how current management roles are working.

Dozens of meetings and workshops were then held with land owners and other stakeholders. Whilst there was widespread agreement that the Ranges need to be protected, the Council feels that any “package” of measures needs to have more community input.

Chairperson of the Council’s Environmental Management Committee, Penny Hulse, says that the extensive consultation to date has raised a number of issues, with the most contentious being proposed legislation. Any legislation would effectively “freeze” the current District Plan, meaning it would not have to be reviewed.

Councillor Hulse says that any protection package must not only take into account environmental concerns but also those of property owners.

“No-one argues that the Ranges are special and need to be protected for future generations”, she says. “But just as important are the property rights that people have under the current District Plan. We need to look at whether enough protection is given by the Plan and other mechanisms, such as structure plans, or whether anything further is needed.”

“Having said that, we won’t support legislation that landowners and residents don’t want.”
The Council will now undertake further consultation with landowners, residents and the wider community. A report on timelines for the project overall will be brought back to the June Council meeting.

“This is a complex issue that is important to everyone who lives in the Ranges and foothills,” Councillor Hulse says. “We can’t rush things. We have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to have input.”

Councillor Hulse was also delighted at the number of people who attended last night’s meeting (around 100).

“It’s not a case of environmentalists on one side and developers on the other,” she says. “Everyone sees the Ranges as unique and wants them protected. It’s how that happens that we need to work on together.”

END

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