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Feds Make a Stand

 As presaged in the 14 June post, the Feds have appealed to the Environment Court in regard to matters to which they consider the Distict Plan Commissioners paid insufficient attention. These were matters that they raised in the course of the Hearings.

Here are the overall reasons for the Federated Farmers Appeal:

Federated Farmers considers that the Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) decisions regarding the Proposed Thames Coromandel District Plan (TCPDP):

  •  Does not adequately address the economic consequences of the TCPDP on land owners

  •  Does not adequately balance the four pillars of sustainability

  •  Does not adequately provide for community and industry initiatives outside the rule framework

        Subject Matter:

6.3.1(a)(d) now 6.3.1(b)(b)

Federated Farmers made a submission seeking that Policy 6.3.1(e) be limited in its application to only where appropriate. The respondent rejected our submission.

Federated Farmers considers the Supreme Court decision, Environmental Defence Society Incorporated V The New Zealand King Salmon Company Limited [2014] NZSC 38, means that the use of the word avoid as a stand alone term or without any proviso means that any activity which does not avoid the effect can only be prohibited and cannot be remedied or mitigated.

We acknowledge that avoidance is limited to significant adverse effects, but consider that there may well be occasions where on balance the benefit of the activity outweighs the effects that may occur.

9 (Outstanding Natural Features and Landscape and 32 Outstanding Natural Features and Landscape Overlay)

Federated Farmers made submissions on 9 Outstanding Natural Features and Landscape on 32 Landscape and Natural Character Overlay

Federated Farmers primary submission was where outstanding landscapes have been identified on working productive farmland Federated Farmers expects the rules for protection of the outstanding landscapes to reflect that the farming activities have created that landscape and therefore are part of  the values of the landscape. We consider that farming in these areas should be able to continue reflecting the underlying Zone provisions. The mapping identifies that some farms are wholly covered by an outstanding landscape overlay and as a result will have their normal farming activities, specifically routine earthworks and building unduly constrainted. Federated Farmers does not consider that existing use rights offer sufficient protection and seek that farming activities are exempt and the underlying zone and district wide rules only apply.

The Respondent in the s42A report and Decisions Report agreed with our submission. However while “holding reservations about naturalness of the farmland that has been included in the ONL overlay and in the absence of analysis that could have been considered” adopted the Policies and maps as recommended by the s42A Report. (5.20)

In regards to the Rules in s32.1 the Respondent noted in the Decisions Report “the Panel resolved that the most appropriate response would be to include provision in these rules to specifically provide for the ongoing nature of  farming activities existing at the time decisions on the Plan are publically notified as a permitted activity.” (5.28)

As a result amendments were made to Rule 2 Earthworks and Rule 2A Clearing Indigenous Vegetation by inserting “it is part of a farming activity operational at 29 April 2016” for earthworks and “it is to maintain open pasture of a farming activity operational at 29 April 2016”

We support these amendments however consider that Rule 2 needs to be extended to include the firewood rule “it is manuka (leptospermum scoparium) or kanuka kunzea ericoides) for domestic use within 18 months of felling”, as this was included in the biodiversity chapter as permitted, being a normal farming activity.

Further Rule 1 limits building gross floor area to 50m2 and height to 5m. Farm buildings such as haybarns, dairysheds shearing and implement sheds are a normal and necessary part of a farming operation. They also need to be replaced or new farm buildings are required for to ensure the farming activity can continue operating. The provisions in the Rural Zone for buildings for farming activities are permitted in regards to scale so long as less than 8m high and the total site coverage of buildings is less than 10%.

We consider that for consistency of the Decision Report that farm buildings (whether replacement or new) that are required for a farming activity operational at 29 April 2016 should be permitted.

Provision 29.3 Rule 3 Clearing Vegetation in the Rural Area (now 29.3.2)

Federated Farmers made several submissions in relation to 29.3.3 including supporting the retention of in relation of the harvesting of timber under a Sustainable Management Plan or Permit.

The Respondent in the Section 42A Hearing Report subsequently adopted in the Decisions has deleted on the basis that matters considered under the Forest Act 1949 do not align with those matters to be considered under the RMA. Therefore the harvesting of indigenous forest with a Sustainable Management Plan or Permit under the Forest Act now requires a restricted discretionary consent.

Further in relation to 32.3.1(c) restricting activities within 5m of a permanent waterbody needs to exempt normal farming activities including fencing, water intake structures, stream crossings and tracks to the stream crossings

A number of other challenges of lesser significance were made - it is the landscape provisions above that are the most contentious, and where the Feds are likely to bring to bear their strongest legal effort to take Council on. This will prove extremely costly to rate-payer.




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