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Plan to protect Wellington region's best scenery

Councils are clamping down on big developments in the Wellington region to protect outstanding landscapes. The lifestyle property boom and big wind farm projects are about to be slapped with stringent controls as Greater Wellington regional council begins a review of the area's most dramatic scenery in a bid to control piecemeal development.

Councils are clamping down on big developments in the Wellington region to protect outstanding landscapes.

The lifestyle property boom and big wind farm projects are about to be slapped with stringent controls as Greater Wellington regional council begins a review of the area's most dramatic scenery in a bid to control piecemeal development.

Landscapes recognised as outstanding will be designated as such in councils' district plans, offering them new protection.

Contentious coastal subdivisions and large-scale wind farms have sparked public outcries with many becoming locked in costly legal battles. They include housing developments at Riversdale Beach resort, Mighty River Power's Long Gully wind farm near Karori sanctuary, and the West Wind project at Makara.

Areas already identified and protected as outstanding natural landscapes include the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges. But there are growing fears that other landscape features are being lost because of lack of protection.

Regional council policy adviser Scott Ihaka said some local projects could have been better managed under clearer protection guidelines.

The review, being undertaken initially by... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Councils are clamping down on big developments in the Wellington region to protect outstanding landscapes.

The lifestyle property boom and big wind farm projects are about to be slapped with stringent controls as Greater Wellington regional council begins a review of the area's most dramatic scenery in a bid to control piecemeal development.

Landscapes recognised as outstanding will be designated as such in councils' district plans, offering them new protection.

Contentious coastal subdivisions and large-scale wind farms have sparked public outcries with many becoming locked in costly legal battles. They include housing developments at Riversdale Beach resort, Mighty River Power's Long Gully wind farm near Karori sanctuary, and the West Wind project at Makara.

Areas already identified and protected as outstanding natural landscapes include the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges. But there are growing fears that other landscape features are being lost because of lack of protection.

Regional council policy adviser Scott Ihaka said some local projects could have been better managed under clearer protection guidelines.

The review, being undertaken initially by environmental firm Boffa Miskell, begins in Wairarapa early next year. It will take in the Hutt Valley, Kapiti Coast and Wellington over the next two years.

It is the first robust stocktake of the region's environmental assets in more than 20 years and comes at a time of increasing pressure on land availability.

"There is some uncertainty under the Resource Management Act about what sort of development can be carried out on important landscapes," Mr Ihaka said. "It's that uncertainty that can create tensions in communities and an expensive and time-consuming process for applicants, affected parties and local and regional authorities."

Meridian spokesman Alan Seay said the process would clarify which areas were suitable for wind farms and remove uncertainty.

The firm did not regard the West Wind project as being on a unique landscape, "but we acknowledge that others have a different view".

Upper Hutt City Council has already moved to protect its patch. It contracted Boffa Miskell last year to carry out a Southern Hills Environmental Management Study to detail the valley's land resources. Mayor Wayne Guppy said the city realised it had to protect the hills. "If you don't have a plan you get these piecemeal developments that can leave you unable to fight back because you have failed to define what sort of protections should be placed on those areas."

The Greater Wellington review follows a similar process at Banks Peninsula, which took 12 years.

Ad Feedback Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the review was not a quick fix. "Looking at all landscapes is going to take time ... there must be flexibility."

SCENIC SIGNIFICANCE

What is a district plan?

* District plans set out how an area's resources should be managed. Under the Resource Management Act 1991, every council must prepare one. They deal with issues including urban growth, heritage protection, noise levels and subdivision.

What is being proposed?

* Planners Boffa Miskell will compile a list of important landscapes and features around Greater Wellington, starting with Wairarapa. The views of Maori, farmers, land owners, environmental groups and the public will be sought and important Wairarapa landscapes identified by July 2010. The information will be included in councils' district plans.

LENGTHY PROJECTS

* Project West Wind, Wellington: Meridian Energy's Makara wind farm. First proposed in the late 1990s, but shelved after local protests. Consent process started May 2005. Construction of the 62-turbine project started in September 2007 and is due for completion this month.

* Project Hayes, Otago: 176-turbine wind farm project. Resource consent process began in 2006. Thrown out by the Environment Court last month. Meridian Energy may fight the decision.

* Marine Education Centre, Wellington: First suggested for Te Raekaihau Pt in 1998, consent granted in 2006, but overturned a year later. Maranui Quarry suggested last year.


Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/domi...

DEC 1 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23405-plan-to-protect-wellington-region-s-best-scenery
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