Mackenzie status - 'outstanding natural landscape'

19:15, Mar 19 2013
mackenzie basin
The Mackenzie Basin

The Mackenzie Basin's status as an outstanding natural landscape is official, but questions remain about how it will become a reality.

The Resource Management Act considers an outstanding natural landscape the highest form of protection - outside of public conservation land.

The Mackenzie Basin's status was confirmed yesterday in a ruling from Justice Williams in the High Court. He was responding to a Federated Farmers appeal over a 2011 Environment Court declaration the basin be declared an outstanding natural landscape. The High Court hearings took place in August last year.

However, Justice Williams said Federated Farmers had now "reached an acceptance that the decision on the outstanding natural landscape was final".

Federated Farmers had also argued that Environment Court Judge Jon Jackson had "breached the rules of natural justice" when he drafted entire new sections of the Mackenzie District Council's "plan change 13" in order to bring it into line with the finding that the Mackenzie Basin was an outstanding natural landscape.

Yet Justice Williams disagreed with Federated Farmers on this matter.

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"In this case, [Judge Jackson] took the view that the Mackenzie District Council had a limited rating base upon which to undertake the extra work," Justice Williams said.

"It was, [Judge Jackson] implied, more efficient simply to put up a draft for debate through the consultation, objection and analysis phases to come."

Judge Jackson's proposals included new rules limiting intensification and wilding tree spread, as well as classing pivot irrigators as buildings.

Justice Williams said it was now up to the parties involved - which include Federated Farmers, the district council and Meridian Energy - to submit their proposals to the Environment Court as to how the detail should be worked out.

Most of the affected parties felt it was best to not to comment on the impact of the court ruling until they had properly read Justice Williams' decision.

PLAN CHANGE 13 TIMELINE

Plan proposes greater protection of Mackenzie Basin landscape.

2008-09: Mackenzie District Council receives more than 150 submissions on the plan change — Many high country farmers argue it is too restrictive.

September 2009: Initial proposal to classify the entire Mackenzie Basin as an "outstanding natural landscape" was reworded to say the basin had "distinctive and highly valued landscape".

August 2010: Environment Court hearings — several groups, including Mackenzie Federated Farmers lodge appeals.

December 2011: Environment Court Judge Jon Jackson's interim decision, suggested reclassifying the entire Mackenzie Basin as "outstanding natural landscape", and placing stronger controls on subdivision. Federated Farmers appeal to High Court.

August 2012: Justice Joseph Williams oversees hearings.

March 2013: Justice Williams releases his decision, reconfirming Mackenzie Basin's status as an "outstanding natural landscape", but says all other matters are not yet final.

The Timaru Herald