Pre-Consultation Comment Form
Plan Change 114 Landscapes
Whangarei District Council, Policy and Monitoring Division
Private Bag 9023
Attn: Melissa McGrath
FULL NAME: Landowners Coalition Inc.
POSTAL ADDRESS: PO Box 984, Whangarei 0140
TELEPHONE: 09 4343 836
DATE: 11 May 2016
We have been approached by a number of landowners to make representations regarding Plan Change 114 Landscapes. Our comments are as follows:
Maps and boundary lines
We understand the WDC is to adopt the maps as prepared by the Northland Regional Council as part of their Regional Policy Statement. We believe Plan Change 114 is an opportunity to correct errors in that process, and the WDC should do so where landowners bring those errors to its attention. While we accept the mapping process undertaken by the NRC was robust, we are aware the amendments to the maps were limited to submitters. It is highly likely that there will be landowners who have only become aware of the boundaries subsequently.
We do not believe it appropriate for an expansion of the ONL, ONF and Coastal boundaries and would oppose any such action to do so.
LAN 1.1 Description & Expectations
Re comment: “Human activities such as building construction, earthworks and vegetation clearance can act to reduce the quality of landscapes.”
It is our view human activities have a net positive effect on the landscape. We believe the WDC has consistently failed to recognise and acknowledge the beneficial impact of landowner activity. Indeed, large areas now identified as an ONL have only become significant through the rehabilitation efforts of private landowners.
We believe it is counter-productive to limit a landowners rights on landscapes they have rehabilitated. To do so acts as a disincentive for others to do likewise. We therefore believe areas that have been rehabilitated by a landowner should be separately identified and offered rates remission on such areas.
It is our view the effect of such a positive incentive would be the rehabilitation of large areas of coastal and less accessible inland land, and would be significantly more effective than the restrictive and punitive regime proposed. We are encouraged by the inclusion of policies 16,17, and 18, but are discouraged that council seems to be of a view that the best way to achieve that is to treat all landowners as malevolent.
We are of a view that the existence of buildings on the landscape does not significantly reduce the quality of the landscape. The visual impact of buildings on a landscape are usually minor and do not justify the level of restriction imposed by this plan change. It is our firm view that the construction of new homes and accessory buildings should not under any circumstances be treated as a non-complying activity, and if it is to be treated as discretionary then it should be no more than restricted discretionary limited to landscaping requirements only and treated as a fast-track non-notified consent.
We believe the WDC has overstated the negative visual effect of human activities on our landscapes. In most cases the visual aspect from the coast is barely noticeable, and even where it is noticeable the visual impact does not detract from ones impression of the landform. We note the irony that the urban landscape and the road corridor in particular has a much greater visual impact yet is not subject to visual regulation. We state this merely to put the visual impact of human activity in ONLs and ONFs into context.
We believe the draft policies overstate the importance of views from “public roads, public reserves, and the coastal marine area”. Visual effect needs to be better defined as to what is a significant visual effect and what is a minor visual effect when taken in the context of the total view. We do not consider the mere presence of buildings to be a significant effect as is assume in the draft policy. Having clarity in this regard would provide greater certainty to landowners and assist planning staff when assessing consent applications. At present, significance is purely subjective depending on the mind of the individual making the assessment. We believe it is for landowners to make such assessments, not activist environmental groups and local busy-bodies with a casual or ideological interest in the landowners property.
The expressions “Cumulative adverse effects” and “Potential adverse effects” should be removed from the policies as cumulative and potential effects are imaginary. They are typically cited as an objection by those who wish to obstruct a landowners activities and impose a cost burden upon them. It is very dangerous indeed to oppose activities on the basis of what might happen as it exposes landowners to imaginary effects that are wholly subjective.
LAN 1.2 Objectives
We are of a general view that subdivision enhances landscapes, where the intensity of subdivision is modest. “Inappropriate” subdivision needs to be better defined. It is unnecessarily onerous to treat all subdivision activity as either non-complying or discretionary.
We believe promoting “the conservation, enhancement and rehabilitation of outstanding natural landscapes” is best achieved by incentivising landowners, not restricting their activities.
Policy 19 should be extended to include the right of forestry activities to replant as part of their ongoing forestry activity. It is totally unacceptable to view existing use rights of a forestry operation as one growing cycle when the underlying investment in the land is an enduring activity.
We object to non-complying activities requiring public notification. The effect is to make private property rights subservient to the rights of others with no interest in their property other than a general interest. We believe it is fundamentally wrong to give the public greater rights than a landowner and this will inevitably give rise to the abuse of that right by vested interest groups and agenda driven individuals.
The rules give too much weight to parties not directly affected by a proposal to have a say on the matter. Given the track record of vested interest groups to use the process to stymie what are unremarkable activities we believe the practical effect on landowners will be onerous and disproportionate to the environmental effect of their activity.
The permitted floor area requirements for non-habitable buildings are too low. The construction or repair of non-habitable buildings should be a permitted activity, with the same rules that apply to environments outside of the ONL and ONF areas. Furthermore we object to the need to impose colour requirements. In both cases we believe the case of actual adverse effect has not been demonstrated.
We object to restrictions applying to the extension or alteration of existing buildings.
The volume and cut height limits for earthworks are unnecessarily onerous. The permitted limits do not apply to new earthworks which implies ALL new work would be treated as discretionary or non-complying which we consider onerous and impractical.
Rule 2.3.3. We believe the permitted limits are too low and too restrictive in their application. The 3m distance is inadequate and does not permit landowners to address the negative effects of trees in close proximity to habitable areas. If limits are to be imposed we are of a view that this should extend to a reasonable cartilage area.
We believe forestry operations should not be restricted at all in their activities and do not agree that forestry has the negative effects implied in the draft policies.
We believe the all references to customary rights should be removed. Effect is effect, regardless of the race of the individual causing the effect.
All property owners should be permitted to build a dwelling as of right. It is totally unacceptable to require a landowner, or potential landowner, to go through the uncertainty of a consenting process where that process gives council staff, an individual member of the public, and activist groups greater say on whether or not a landowner can build a dwelling on their property. To do so would deny a fundamental property right and potentially render the property of no use. If such restrictions are to be imposed it is appropriate for a local authority to purchase the property from the landowner prior to the rule change.
In general we have no issue with the control of significant activities within ONL and ONF boundaries. Our objection is classifying what are in effect minor activities as significant. The threshold has been set far too low in our opinion and the effects of human activity have been exaggerated.
We are also of a view that if a landscape in private ownership is of such value to the community that it warrants highly restrictive rules, then it is appropriate that the local authority of state agency purchases the property – as was the case of the Ngunguru sandspit.
While it is easy for a local authority to take a precautionary approach to planning by treating activities as non-complying or discretionary, requiring consent, even when discretionary, imposes significant costs upon a property owner and creates uncertainty. We believe this places an unfair burden upon affected landowners and is detrimental to the community at large. Quite simply, people will avoid the uncertainty, cost, and hassles imposed by the consent process by not pursuing the activity. That comes and a significant cost to the economic wellbeing and social wellbeing of a community.
We believe Plan Change 114 Landscapes in the draft form proposed will significantly restrict landowners rights, and transfer property rights from them to the general public and vested interest groups, and impose significant additional costs upon individual landowners.
We wish to be kept informed of the process and make formal submissions at the appropriate time.
on behalf of the Landowners Coalition Inc.