Appeal of Rural plan changes

The Landowners Coalition has filed an appeal with the Environment Court.


The Whangarei District Council is progressing ten plan changes to the District Plan, which will affect every landowner outside of the urban areas. The plan changes divide the rural (countryside) area into seven “Environments” with “Resource area” overlays, each with their own rules that dictate the full gambit of activity in the rural area: the size, location, and colour of buildings; subdivision lot sizes, vegetation removal, earthworks, forestry, everything.

A panel of three independent commissioners heard submissions to the plan changes and recently released their report. As is typical, they did not make any changes of great substance. In general, they accepted the recommendations of council staff and tinkered with wording.

What remains is a significant erosion of private property rights by transferring discretion about what one does on one’s own property from the property owner to council staff, who presume to represent the values of the community at large. This will significantly increase costs and uncertainty to those who wish to do something on their land.

Besides the underlying assumption that landowners can’t be trusted, the plan changes attempt to solve “problems” that are more imaginary than real. This is contrary to the great things landowners have been doing, and continue to do, to improve the environment. Literally millions of native trees have been planted in our region in recent years by private landowners and the positive effects are plain to see. Instead of recognising those good deeds, planners, aided by indifferent and pro-regulation councillors, want to have greater say about what you can and (more importantly) can’t do on your own private property.

However, we now have a situation where the three ‘wise’ men presiding over the future rules of our district have agreed with Council planners that not only do they know what the community wants, but that what the community thinks a landowner should do on their property is more important than what landowners think.

The appeal 

Our Appeal to the Environment Court is wide-ranging.

There is now a window of opportunity (some 15 working days) for submitters to join our appeal in support of any part of that appeal. That would give a submitter the opportunity to participate in mediation, without cost.

Contact us (Frank 021 718 478 or 09 4343 836) if you would like guidance on joining our action as a S274 party.

Mediation is likely to be a lengthy process, but significant changes – for better or worse – will be made during mediation.

POST NOTE: The Landowners Coalition took part in mediation that lasted some 3 weeks. As a result of our engagement council planning staff made changes to the District Plan that brought some common sense to certain issues. However, we believe the plan change is largely anti-landowner and largely represents the will of council staff to transfer property rights to them. We remain of the view that the WDC’s planning rules are largely self-serving to the detriment of private property owners.

We were horrified at the degree of “horse-trading” that went on between council staff and some parties to mediation that was done on the pretence of public interest when in reality was nothing more than self-interest.