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Hurunui Case Not Just A Lack Of Communication

14 November 2000



Federated Farmers believes the Environment Minister, Hon Marian Hobbs is wrong when she describes the conflict between farmers and Hurunui District Council, "as one of conflicting values that the community has to get to grips with."

Federated Farmers Environment spokesman Mr John Aspinall said that Hurunui Council, and many other councils, have blindly followed a simplistic interpretation of the RMA. "They believe that identifying some sites and strapping on some rules will give long term protection of indigenous flora and farmers."

"This approach simply antagonises owners. It does nothing for the required long-term, proactive management, such as weed and pest control, necessary to ensure indigenous values endure," he said.

"In general, farmers have a strong stewardship ethic and recognise the value of outstanding indigenous values. However, they object strongly to their property rights being removed in the 'public good' without consultation, without any compensation, and without any discussion on specific management options for the site."

"Now that these areas are subject to rules in a proposed plan and actually imposing unforeseen costs and restrictions on landowners, it will require more than just talk to resolve the situation. Communication is a necessary starting point, but only resulting action by the council will go some way towards resolving the situation."

"The debacle in Hurunui has occurred in many other districts. It will continue to occur as long as the official interpretation of the RMA enables lobby groups to pressure councils to include areas in their plans for the 'public good', at the landowners' expense. It is human nature to press for more and more of a 'free lunch,'" said Mr Aspinall.

There are a range of options that can be used, including compensation or cost sharing by the wider community to provide longer-term management.

"This issue can be resolved to a large degree by the Government giving a clear direction that costs imposed in the public good must be accompanied by public funding of the associated costs. An RMA amendment bill is currently before the Select Committee and the Government has the responsibility to improve this section of the RMA, so as to provide equity and accountability into the management of indigenous vegetation," he concluded.

ENDS For further information: John Aspinall 025 838-087 or 03-443-7155 Catherine Petrey 04-473-7269

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