Legal safeguards may not be far away
Does the Mackenzie Basin need extra legal environmental protection?
The Mackenzie Basin's status as an outstanding natural landscape could soon be legally enshrined.
Federated Farmers had appealed an Environment Court interim finding by Judge Jon Jackson that declared the basin an outstanding natural landscape, but appears to have dropped the action.
However, other matters, including whether the judge went outside his legal scope with rules on irrigator pivots and wilding pines, were still before the High Court.
The decision has major implications for the basin. Mackenzie District planning manager Nathan Hole said although new development in the basin could still occur, "it does mean that land use should not degrade or affect the integrity of the landscape.
"The detail of how this is achieved is still being worked through with the Environment Court, but essentially the council's district plan will have objectives and policies, and rules [to assist this]."
Justice Joseph Williams heard proceedings in the High Court in Christchurch on August 20 and 21.
He reserved his decision for two months, after which it will go back to the Environment Court.
Resource Management law lecturer Ceri Warnock, of Otago University, said declaring an area an "outstanding natural landscape" was the most protective category outside of conservation land.
"Any developers would have to show that their activity does not hinder the preservation of the landscape's qualities. For example, it is unlikely that irrigator pivots would be allowed," she said.
Mackenzie Federated Farmers chairman John Murray would not comment on the case, but previously told the Herald that declaring the basin an outstanding natural landscape would turn the area into a "museum".
A Federated Farmers spokesman, who declined to be named, said the issue was complex.
“What needs to be remembered here is that appeals [to the High Court] can only be made on matters of law," he said.
"We are really in the hands of the court. Until a decision is released, Federated Farmers is unable to arrive at a ‘what next?' "
Mackenzie District Mayor Claire Barlow said the council was pleased that the findings on the outstanding natural landscape had been confirmed. "We can now focus our efforts on bringing the remaining matters before the Environment Court to a conclusion.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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