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Will livelihoods be ripped away?

Councils must identify all wetlands by 2030. PHOTOS/FILE

Returning farms to wetlands

Previous Wairarapa Federated Farmers president and Masterton farmer Jamie Falloon made a submission to Greater Wellington Regional Council on Thursday, asking for clarity on restoring historical wetlands on farmland.

He wanted to know what the council’s plans were for forming a policy to require landowners to return land that may have been a historical wetland back to its original state.

Jamie Falloon.

Falloon was concerned about developments surrounding Mangaroa Valley residents in Upper Hutt who had suddenly becoming aware of the potential of wetlands being on their properties and the regulations that come with those areas.

Tears were shed as families told the council about the fear that their livelihoods could be ripped away from them.

Regional council environment manager Al Cross said the council had no intention of making returning the entire valley to wetland, although some regulations would have to be upheld, often in the process of resource consents, for what some people could and could not do.

He said residents could chose to re-wet historical wetlands if they wanted to.

Falloon was also concerned about stock exclusion rules within the National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2020.

“No one disagrees with protecting what is there at the moment,” Falloon said.

Regional council Wairarapa representative Adrienne Staples asked Falloon if he had any information about wetland drainage and how much of it had been caused by uplift in major earthquakes.

Falloon said he was  restoring six wetlands on his farm.

“My entire farm was a former wetland and I’m concerned I may eventually be forced to return all of it to wetland.’’

Cross said this situation would be very unlikely, and council was not doing anything more than what was prescribed by the National Policy Statement for Fresh Water [NPS-FW]
and the National Environmental Standards for Fresh Water [NES-FW].

Falloon said the NPS-FW prescribed that identified wetlands must be included in plans, and if over 500m2, it must have stock excluded

“Councils must identify all of these wetlands by 2030, either if they are over 500m2, or if they are a habitat for threated species. Once identified, plan change must happen to schedule these wetlands.

“The only mention of historic wetlands is when an artificial wetland restores a historic wetland area. This has the same status as an actual wetland in the NPS-FW.”

Environmental policy that applies to farms, such as the NPS-FW and the NES-FW also apply to lifestyle blocks, which some landowners, such as those in Mangaroa, may only just be grappling with now.

Falloon was afraid that what Mangaroa residents feared would happen to their land, would happen to him too, and in a 2019 regional council map he said his entire farm seemed to be marked as a historic wetland.

Cross said these fears were far from the truth of what the council was looking to do, and council would be mapping all over the region under obligation to the NPS-FW.

He said council needed to start a conversation with residents about what these polices meant so there was less fear and greater public understanding of policy.

“A lot of the fears that people have is about whether or not they will be able to build a shed where they want it, or their dream house where they want it. We will be looking into this as part of the resource consent process for what people can and can’t do.”

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