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Whakatane Council decision will hit ratepayers


Whakatane Council decision will hit ratepayer pockets.

Forest and Bird is warning ratepayers that they will have to fork out tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars re-writing the Whakatane District Plan after the Whakatane District Council decided today to abandon the natural heritage provisions of its Plan after seven years.

"Whakatane ratepayers are in for a shock once they realize how much this council decision will cost them," said Forest and Bird's environmental lawyer Kate Mitcalfe.

The Council abandoned parts of its District Plan today under pressure from farmers who oppose provisions that seek to conserve significant natural areas.

"This decision means that the District Plan will have to be rewritten, notified for public submissions, analysed and probably appealed to the Environment Court - all over again. That will cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars," Ms Micalfe said.

"Perhaps the councillors could offer to hear submissions on the new plan without claiming fees for attending the meetings. They've just made a decision that will put their constituents to considerable expense. And for what? The chances are that by the time the District Plan has been through the process, it'll look much the same except that some important wildlife habitats will have been cleared," Ms Mitcalfe said.

"After seven years, the Whakatane District Council has failed in the duties that Parliament gave it under the Resource Management Act. They have failed to protect the significant natural areas of the district," Ms Mitcalfe said.

NOTES

The proposed Whakatane District Plan was notified in 1996. An assessment of natural values in the District identified 286 significant sites.

In 2000 the Whakatane District Council made a decision on the District Plan that proposed to protect only those sites that were listed voluntarily by landholders. Following the release of the decision, Environment Bay of Plenty, Department of Conservation, Fish and Game and Forest and Bird appealed the decision to the Environment Court because it was not enough to protect the environment. In response to the appeals on the District Plan, the Whakatane District Council established a working group to develop options on ways of protecting natural areas of significance and did not pay much attention to the appeals lodged with the Environment Court.

Today the Council considered proposals put forward by the working group but decided instead to abandon its key provisions of its District Plan.


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