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It was a bureaucratic nightmare

Significant Natural Areas [SNA’s] are back in the news, with Associate Environment Minister Andrew Hoggard taking the proverbial bull by the horns.

Hoggard said that the Government “has agreed to suspend the requirement for councils to comply with the SNA provisions of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity for three years while it replaces the Resource Management Act’.

The statement shouldn’t have surprised anyone because during the last term of government, Act agricultural spokesman Mark Cameron launched a petition to stop the land grab. Hoggard has continued that crusade, and good on him.

The Hoggard statement brought the predictable bleats, claiming the statement was encouraging councils around New Zealand to break the law.

I’d dispute that. Councils were told to sit on their hands for three years, which was the best advice you could ever give to some of them.

Once a SNA has been declared, for whatever reason, a farmer can appeal if he or she has the resources to do so. The level of scientific proof of an SNA is minimal, and for SNA’s ‘of significance to Maori’, the burden of proof is also light.

And who decides, particularly when it comes to heritage and cultural value as that is incredibly broad. For example, what’s the definition of heritage and cultural value?

Am I going to have a 20-something-year-old with an obscure degree assuring me they have a lifetime of experience in all things before telling me what I can and can’t do on my property?

What makes the entire SNA debate even more farcical is that significant isn’t defined by law.

Some time ago, I had a mate phoned by that 20-something-year-old to be told that there was a stand of Totara at the back of the property, and they were going to inspect it with a view to classifying it. They were told not to come onto the property.

The reality was, if the council employee had bothered to do any research, that the stand of Totara was part of a fenced-off regeneration area of over 100 hectares that several neighbours had banded together to preserve. Such is the level of ignorance promoted by some councils.

The Hoggard statement received support and criticism.

The Environmental Defence Society came out describing the Hoggard statement as ‘the latest in a rolling maul of attacks on the constitution and environment by the government’. They added: ‘It represents executive overreach in a way not seen since the 1970’s’.

You’d hold your breath over that hysteria and one could suggest that the author had a cup of tea and a lie down.

The issue is that you had a jackbooted law that infringed on property rights and created a bureaucratic nightmare.

It had no scientific credibility and it wasn’t always run by people qualified to do so.

For those reasons alone, it deserved the boot and congratulations to Hoggard for starting the process.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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