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Conservation plan . . . Native bush on a farm. Landowners could be offered incentives to protect biodiversity under a Waimakariri District Council proposal. File photo

By DAVID HILL

The Waimakariri District Council is considering offering landowners incentives to help protect biodiversity as part of its District Plan Review.

Councillors last week approved in principal a proposal to offer a resource consent pathway for “bonus lots” and additional housing on rural-zoned land to offset the costs of protecting indigenous biodiversity.

Staff will now draft a chapter as part of the council’s District Plan review.

“Council staff have been investigating how to best manage the ongoing decline of indigenous biodiversity through the District Plan review process,” Mayor Dan Gordon says.

“The council approved the development of a chapter in the upcoming draft District Plan to provide incentives for protecting areas of biodiversity by allowing subdivision and development incentives, as well as rights’.

“This is being developed as a pathway to encourage and provide incentives for landowners to protect biodiverse areas.”

A survey of landowners with listed significant natural areas found that most would respond well to incentives, but there were different views about what incentives would appeal.

Some landowners believed their natural areas were well looked after, capable of “looking after itself” or was “too overgrown to be worth doing any additional maintenance”, a staff report says.

The council sought feedback on transferable development rights and subdivision incentives, which are commonly used by North Island councils, but around 80 percent of respondents had no knowledge of these options.

A subdivision incentive would allow for the development of a “bonus lot” in exchange for protecting a natural area in perpetuity, while transferable development rights allowed a landowner to sell the right to subdivide in an open market.

Some landowners were opposed to these incentives, citing concern over adverse effects to rural character.

Others were open to the idea of subdivision incentives and some wanted more information.

The survey findings found that “monitoring requirements associated with subdivision incentives did not put landowners off”, the report said.

One landowner indicated some positive feedback would provide the biggest incentive, while another already had land under a QE2 covenant.

Extra pest traps, funding for fencing and waiving consent fees were also suggested by landowners as incentives.

Respondents also asked for more support with planting.

The proposal still needs to go through the District Plan process, so there will be opportunities for residents to have their say, Mr Gordon says.