Some benefits for nature in Auckland Unitary Plan – if it’s managed well

The Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP) has set some positive objectives for nature – but whether these can be achieved with the level of intensification  being proposed is an important area for scrutiny, according to Forest & Bird, New Zealand’s leading conservation organisation.

Forest & Bird submitted extensively during the three-year planning process and believes that there are wins and losses for Auckland’s biodiversity, landscapes and waterways in the Plan. Wins include new rulings around the quality of waterways.

“We’re pleased to see the panel have made a commitment to maintain excellent or good quality water in the region’s rivers and streams and improve degraded water, but it will be how this is managed in the face of such a high level of intensification that will be the key,” says Forest & Bird Solicitor Sally Gepp.

“The policies and rules to achieve these and other outcomes require greater scrutiny and we are now looking in greater detail at whether the Plan rules will safeguard these new objectives in the face of development.”

Other wins that were fought for include increased protection for mangroves.

“In general all proposals to remove mangroves will now require resource consents and we are pleased that the panel accepted evidence from Forest & Bird Seabird Advocate Karen Baird and other ecologists about the importance of mangroves as habitat for threatened species and as a buffer against coastal erosion.”

Areas for concern however include the pressure on Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs) such as bush remnants, wetlands, and important coastal habitat.

“The SEA policies are seeking to be all things to all people and there are no clear environmental bottom lines,” says Ms Gepp.

“If we do challenge the Plan, it will be because we have come to the view that it does not implement important biodiversity, landscape or water quality policies laid down in national policy documents, like the NZ Coastal Policy Statement, that the Plan must implement.”

Over 1500 hours of staff time have been spent during the hearings process by Forest & Bird’s legal team since December 2013, Experts also provided many hours voluntarily  to be the voice for nature on these key policies for Auckland’s environment.