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Environment Court finds Hawea vegetation clearance illegal

Friday 28 March 2014 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Environment Court finds vegetation clearance at Hawea was illegal

Forest & Bird is welcoming the Environment Court finding that land recently cleared of native vegetation at Hawea in Central Otago breached the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s district plan.

The case was brought by Forest & Bird, which had earlier obtained interim enforcement orders preventing any further clearance.

Forest & Bird’s Otago Southland Field Officer, Sue Maturin, says: “A very special part of Central Otago has been lost. If the Queenstown Lakes District Council had acted to stop the destruction as soon as Forest & Bird alerted it, we may not have lost one of the best and biggest remaining areas of short tussock grasslands, cushion fields, and dry land ecosystems in the Upper Clutha Basin.

“This case highlights the need for councils to be much better at advising landowners about their obligations under district plans; to have clear rules to protect biodiversity; and to strongly uphold the integrity of their plans.

“This case also demonstrates that landowners need to be very certain of their obligations under district plans. New Zealanders want our rare and special native plants protected, and we have laws to provide for that. These laws need to be enforced,” Sue Maturin says.

In today’s decision, the Environment Court cancelled those interim enforcement orders because the effects of the clearance meant remediation was not possible. This will allow the already disturbed area to continue to be developed. The court found the land clearance breached the Queenstown Lakes District Plan, and that the remaining disturbed areas could not be developed without a resource consent.

The landowner has given an undertaking not to clear these areas without first seeking a consent.

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