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Wellington City Council Land Grab Angers Homeowners

1,700 homeowners in Wellington could lose the right to use parts of their land in a Wellington City Council land grab, many of them may not even be aware of this.

Want to build a treehouse for the kids or fence in the dog? You’ll need a resource consent for that. How about planting a couple of fruit trees? If they aren’t natives, you won’t be able to do that either. Any development a property owner wants to do, on their own land, will be costly.

“Wellington City Council’s ‘Backyard Taonga’ proposal has been badly publicised,” says Lisa Snow whose property in Vogeltown is affected. “I got a slick leaflet in late 2019 about how awesome it was going to be for me to have this protection over my land. I phoned the Council and asked about the help they offered me to maintain it. They do nothing about the rampant Old Man’s Beard plant that has smothered native plants I’d put on a road reserve bank in front of my house. They said they didn’t know what form this help would take and when I asked if I’d get a rates reduction for this loss of use of my land said no. That was the last I heard about it until I received a flyer from the SNA Committee a few months ago letting me submissions could be made.”

Brent Slater has found the Council equally unhelpful. He has offered to swap 1,760 sqm of his land that is scheduled to be designated a Special Natural Area (SNA) for 440sqm of Council stormwater reserve that he currently maintains as the Council don’t bother. “Council stated that the land that we are offering as a land swap does not have amenity and ecological values, yet Council wish to appropriate it for the imposition of an SNA for those very same reasons!” Brent said.

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Barbara McKenzie set up the SNA Committee to help publicise the reality of the proposal to affected property owners in the Wellington area. But she still thinks there are plenty who don’t know about it or don’t understand the real implications of it.

Barbara has met with Council Officers who are confused about what Government policy this land grab is based on. “They said first of all, ‘it comes from Government’ and quoted the Resource Management Act (RMA), but I said no, there is nothing in the RMA. Then they said it was the National Policy Statement (NPS) on indigenous biodiversity. But the final version of this hasn’t yet been released.”

Upper Hutt City Council, Lower Hutt City Council and the Far North District Council have all decided to shelve plans to designate land as SNAs until they get a steer from the Government. “Without the NPS being released there is no Government directive for WCC to do this,” says Barbara. “You can’t run a city council on the basis of well one day it will be legal, so we will do it now.”

“One of my biggest concerns with this is what next? Once the area is designated SNA, it will be easy for the council to put further restrictions over it and it is these implications that I don’t think people understand,” says Lisa. “For example, they could, as part of helping me ‘manage’ my backyard put 1080 or other poisons I wouldn’t use there. They could restrict the sorts of pets I own or ban them from roaming on my land. I like living amongst the trees with the birds, but I’m tempted to go up there with a chainsaw and fix the problem while I still can.”

Barbara says, “I expect to spend the rest of my days either watching them take the rest of my land or worrying about it.”

Submissions close this Tuesday 14 December 2021.


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