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Otago Regional Council In Breach Of Its Own Policy

Otago Regional Council In Breach Of Its Own Regional Policy Statement

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society considers the Otago Regional Council is in breach of its own Regional Policy Statement by deciding to introduce a code of practice for burning tussock grasslands in place of a regional land plan.

The question of how to manage high country burning has vexed the Otago Regional Council since 1992. The Regional Policy Statement for Otago identified the need for a Regional Plan: Land to ensure that Otago’s land resource is not compromised by activities such as burning. However, Council discontinued preparation of the land plan in July 1998 and instead released a draft Code of practice for Vegetation Burning last month.

Forest and Bird’s Southern Conservation Officer said that Council is not free to decide in house to abandon the Regional Plan for Land, when they clearly have an obligation to do so under the Regional Policy Statement.

“The Policy Statement is a statutory document and, like everyone else, the Council is bound by it.”

“Unless the Council varies the Statement, it is legally bound to produce a regional land plan.” Sue Maturin said.

Forest and Bird is dismayed that the Otago Regional Council has chosen to rely on a voluntary code of practice to manage burning tussock grasslands, native bush and shrublands in the Otago high country.

“Central Otago is internationally and nationally famous for it’s expansive tall tussock grasslands. Excessive burning and grazing will destroy these outstanding icons.” Sue Maturin said.

“Although there are many high country farmers who manage their burning to far higher environmental standards than those suggested in the guidelines, Council needs to set some, legally enforceable standards to make certain that Otago’s tussock grassland ecosystems are not degraded. These should be set in a regional land plan as is required by the Regional Policy Statement.” she said.

ENDS
For information contact:
Sue Maturin 03 477-9677ph(w) 03 476 1907 or 025 222- 5092

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