Significant Natural Areas (SNAs): How NZ Cities Are Implementing Agenda 21 and the American Wildlands Project

The American Wildlands Project, now termed the Wildlands Network, proposes the designation of 50% of the United States as core wilderness areas with little or no human use, connected by corridors of little or no human use, and surrounded by buffer zones of highly regulated use.  Exposure of the Wildlands Project was responsible for the United States not ratifying the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994.

The Wildlands project is associated with Agenda 21, which New Zealand endorsed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and which is the text for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and ongoing programmes which support these policies.

Wellington and other New Zealand cities are implementing an urban version of the Wildlands Project.

In September of this year, suburban homeowners in Wellington were startled to receive notification that a smaller or greater part of their suburban property was to be incorporated into something called ‘Significant Natural Areas’ (SNAs) or ‘Backyard Taonga’.  This clearly has implication for property rights and values, however this was glossed over in the accompanying letter.

The letter was both wordy and vague; after a lengthy preamble about how Wellingtonians love native bush and wild life it arrived at something approaching the point

[…] We are writing because our work to identify and protect natural areas could affect you.

We’ve been working with ecologist and landscape specialists to identify areas of native bush and landscapes around the city.  This is so we can start talking about what they might have, and ways we can help them look after it. […]
‘As part of an overall District Plan review later this year, we will be asking people for their thoughts on how best to protect native bush and landscapes.  We especially want to work with landowners to find the right balance between protection and practical use – we don’t want to introduce anything that gets in the way of day to day use and maintenance.’ […]

There is no mention in the letter of how the SNA designation might affect property rights, such as the ability to subdivide, develop, build, or carry out home extensions.  The letter reads as though the Council is doing the property owner a favour.

A meeting was held in September in a home in the Wellington suburb of Johnsonville with two councillors, Peter Gilberd and Deputy Mayor Jill Day, and some local residents, alerted through the platform Neighbourly.

Some salient points emerged from the meeting:

  • 1,700 Wellington properties were affected.
  • The councilors had little idea, or would not say, what the legal framework to the policy was, beyond uncertain references to the Resource Management Act (RMA) and a directive from the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC).
  • It’s not about people: Deputy Mayor Jill Day in answer to the comment about the inaccessibility of some of these areas, made it clear that the purpose of these biodiversity areas is not to improve the lives of Wellingtonians, but to provide areas for native flora and fauna ‘it’s not about people, it’s about biodiversity.
  • Nobody has property rights: Jill Day’s response to a question about affect on property rights, to subdivide, extend or build a shed, or plan a garden, and on property values, was that ‘nobody owns land’.
  • The land designated as SNPs is second growth bush, scrub and gorse, but not in general (perhaps not ever) virgin bush. Land was included as a ‘corridor’ even if it connected to nothing.
  • Because of the vagueness of the letter, many homeowners have ignored it, not realising they were affected.

It is also worth noting that the letters were sent out just a few weeks before the local body election, giving those affected and concerned citizens no time to organise an effective response at this most crucial time.

The Policy

From Wellington City Council’s page Backyard Taonga

Pockets of natural land found on both private and public land. These are made up of natural ecosystems, outstanding landscapes and distinctive landmarks. […]

‘Ecologists completed a desktop study that was based mainly on aerial imagery, local site references and public viewing spots.’ […]

There are over 160 land areas around Wellington city that meet the criteria. Around half of these are on Council land.

A map of the designated areas can be seen here.  According to the FAQ for nearby Porirua City SNAs are ‘large areas generally over 0.5 hectares (1.2 acres) in size’.

The SNAs implement Our Natural Capital: Wellington’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, approved by the Council in 2015, which says:

  • To achieve our biodiversity goals, we will aim to protect the ecologically significant areas on both private and public land.

  • We will restore these areas, create safe buffer zones around them and connect them together.

Maps and reports show that the consultants set out to create as many biodiversity areas as possible, on public and private land, regardless of quality.  Furthermore, the SNAs are open-ended, all areas are to have buffer zones, not just to function as such, but to allow expansion, as the buffers themselves become part of the significant biodiversity area.  The corridors, too, could expand in the same manner.

There was no mention in the Council’s letter of buffer zones or the intention to connect them, or the corridors mentioned by Jill Day.  The implications of ‘connect them together’ are enormous – is the intention really to eventually connect all the biodiversity areas in Wellington, to allow insects to move without hindrance from one side of the city to the other?  While many are in fact joined, there are implications for adjacent land where they are not, especially in the cases of isolated pockets.

Terms like ‘significant’, ‘ecosystem’, and ‘habitat’ are ill-defined. According to the website, one of the qualifying features is that sites,’connect ecosystems or habitats for rare indigenous species‘.  That is potentially every tree in Wellington. Protected native birds such as tuis, fantails and even wood pigeons are abundant in Wellington, liking both native and exotic vegetation, bush and gardens. There wouldn’t be a scrap of bush, in some areas hardly a tree, native or exotic, that doesn’t see a tui at some time. The American experience is that it only takes a single sighting of a protected bird or animal, even when it has clearly strayed from a nearby reserve, to halt all development. (See ‘Agenda 21: a Plan to Take Your Land and Give it To Tortoises and Pagosa Skyrockets’)

The SNAs are to be offset by high-density human habitat. In parallel with expanding protected areas Wellington City Council claims a shortage of land for housing.  The Council has a policy of Smart Growth, which translates as a ‘vibrant’, compact city, to be achieved by an ever-increasing number of apartment buildings, leading inevitably to the eventual destruction of our suburbs as we know them. Child-friendly cafes rather than backyards are portrayed as meeting the needs of the modern family.

As suburban gardens are progressively destroyed, and bushy banks bulldozed, native birds will be forced away from homes and into the SNAs, which will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The ecologists who completed the study were Wildlands Consultants. Almost fifty percent of Wildlands Consultants’ self-description concerns a prioritisation of Maori interests – this may also impact on private property rights and costs of development.

The SNA policy is an assault on:

  1. Property rights
  2. On Wellington suburbs and Wellington lifestyles

It’s not about people: Some of these areas have never been accessible to the general public.

It’s not about biodiversity – the universal destruction of the ecosystem provided by suburban garden across Wellington in favour of pockets of second-growth bush will decrease biodiversity. There will be a net loss of trees through subdivision and possibly also through people clearing their sections in order not to have them swallowed up by SNAs.

It IS about people–  just not in the way you expect.  Council policies are an implementation of the UN’s Agenda 21.

Agenda 21

UN policies, as expressed in Agenda 21,  and other UN statement and conventions endorsed by New Zealand governments, aims at:

  • the abolition of private property
  • the demise of rural living
  • population control
  • the ‘redevelopment’ of cities (Daisy Luther, What Exactly Is Agenda 21?)

The SNA policy claims to implement values held by New Zealanders, ie respect and love for nature in all its forms.  But what is being implemented here is not preservation but the expansion of all pockets of existing reserve land at the expense of private property owners, as a matter of policy.

Wellington has always been a place of homes and gardens, with abundant reserve land in native bush.  The council plans to turn Wellington into a city of apartments offset by little biodiversity areas not necessarily accessible by humans. The refusal to consider greenfield development is not driven by environmental concerns, but because it does not fit the vision of a compact ‘vibrant’ modern city filled with child-friendly cafes but no backyards. In sum, SNAs are designed to further the Agenda 21 vision of humanity corralled into high density urban areas largely cut off from nature.

Wellington’s SNA policy was developed as a response to a directive from the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC).

Wellington Regional Policy Statement (RPS) [here]

The Policy states: ‘The restoration of indigenous ecosystems on private land provides both public and private benefit’ (p.52).

Policy 23 (emphasis throughout added by author)

District and regional plans shall identify and evaluate indigenous ecosystems and habitats with significant indigenous biodiversity values; these ecosystems and habitats will be considered significant if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

(a) Representativeness […]
(b) Rarity […]
(c) Diversity […]
(d) Ecological context of an area: the ecosystem or habitat:

  • (i) enhances connectivity or otherwise buffers representative, rare or diverse indigenous ecosystems and habitats; or
  • (ii) provides seasonal or core habitat for protected or threatened indigenous species.

(e) Tangata whenua values […]

Policy 24 protects indigenous ecosystems and habitats with significant
indigenous biodiversity values from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.

We are then referred to Policy 47, which provides that :

When considering an application for a resource consent, [etc, …]  particular regard shall be given to:
(a) maintaining connections within, or corridors between, habitats of indigenous flora and fauna, and/or enhancing the connectivity between fragmented indigenous habitats;
(b) providing adequate buffering around areas of significant indigenous ecosystems and habitats from other land uses;

The SNAs then are closely aligned with the RPS, including the provisions for buffer zones and corridors, and undermining of private property rights.

Forest & Bird Action Against Hutt City Council

In 2018, after a petition was presented by Hutt residents, the council rejected a proposal to list Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) on private land on the District Plan. Forest & Bird  has gone to the Environment Court to reverse that decision.

With SNAs, DOC land and a huge raft of restrictive regulations we have only built on one percent of our country’s beautiful landmass and that includes roads. I don’t disagree that controls are needed but is there little wonder why there is a housing crisis.
And now my council is going to get sued by Forest and Bird. Well us rate payers will pay the cost and cause ructions at the next elections. Bring it on.
I’m listening to the glorious Tui birdsong outside my window as I type this. The birds and the bush is flourishing here in the Hutt the best it’s been in the last 15 years and SNAs are not needed. (Hutt City Abandons Controversial SNA Plan to Protect Biodiversity, comment)

Forest and Bird has also taken New Plymouth District Council to court over its failure to include private land in its SNAs, citing the Resource Management Act and such authorities as the Taranaki Regional Policy Statement, which also rely on the RMA.

The Resource Management Act (RMA):

The Resource Management Act 1991 reiterates the importance of: ‘the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes’ and ‘areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna’ (Section 6); recognising the ‘intrinsic value of ecosystems’ and of ‘maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment’ (Section 7); ‘maintaining indigenous biological diversity’  (Section 30). (See also the Appendix for a fuller presentation.)

The RMA does not, however, legislate for prioritising biodiversity over human rights and values, particularly in a major urban area.

Section 5 of The Resource Management Act, Purpose and principles, states:

(1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

(2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while

(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and

(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and

(c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.]

There is nothing in the act which provides that ‘biodiversity’ should trump human rights and human welfare. Essentially the RMA provides for the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes, of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and of significant habitats, while acknowledging the importance of  the social, economic, and cultural well-being of people and their communities.

The Resource Management Act makes it clear that while all efforts should be made to protect the environment, protect endangered species and preserve significant natural areas, the welfare of individuals and communities should come first.

SNAs and Smart Growth Policies are in breach of the Resource Management Act

The traditional New Zealand and Wellington standard of home and yard, providing spaces for people, plants, birds and bugs to live in close proximity, where children can play and their elders can garden, is an important part of our culture and makes an essential contribution to people’s well-being.

Across cities, children who live in neighborhoods with more trees tend to have lower incidence of asthma. Mere visual contact with vegetation has been shown to improve health, reduce postoperative recovery times, increase employee satisfaction, and reduce stress. (100 Resilient Cities, Why Cities Should Focus on Biodiversity)

The policies of the GWRC and the Wellington City Council however, are oblivious to human needs in terms of culture and well-being.  The SNA policy prioritises an on-going expansion of areas dedicated to ‘biodiversity’, regardless of human benefit, in a major urban area which at the time has extensive reserve land, including abundant native bush.  The policy infringes on people’s property rights, and ties up land which could be used for housing.

The SNA policy is therefore an urban enactment of the Wildlands Project, with maximum space allowed for flora and non-human fauna, while human beings are corralled into ever-smaller spaces. This map is a conception of how the Wildlands Project will play out in America – the green indicates areas allocated to human habitation.



Under the Wildlands Project, the United States would be transformed from a land where people can live where they choose and travel freely, to a Wildlands dominated landscape where people live in designated population centers with limited travel allowed through highly restricted corridors (Michael Coffman).

To suggest that such a plan could be implemented in major New Zealand cities might seem an extraordinary idea, but in fact the principle is the same: that the maximum possible space be allocated to ‘biodiversity’ and the absolute minimum to human habitat.

How did we get to this point?

The RMA is the only authority quoted by the Regional Council, by the Wellington City Councillors at the Johnsonville meeting, and also by officers of the Regional Council and City Councillors that I have spoken to on the telephone (apart from the Regional Authority itself).

How do we get from ‘avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment‘ while enabling ‘people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety’ to a Regional Council directive instructing councils to make a practice of open-ended encroachment on private land of doubtful significance in New Zealand urban areas, and a Wellington City Council policy of prioritising ‘biodiversity’ over people in the nation’s capital?

While local authorities ostensibly base their policies on the RMA, the ultimate source for their policies is the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Convention on Biological Diversity

Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:

(a) Establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity:
(b) Develop, where necessary, guidelines for the selection, establishment and management of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity:
(c) Regulate or manage biological resources important for the conservation of biological diversity whether within or outside protected areas, with a view to ensuring their conservation and sustainable use;
(d) Promote the protection of ecosystems, natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations of species in natural surroundings:
(e) Promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas with a view to furthering protection of these areas:
(f) Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, inter alia, through the development and implementation of plans or other management strategies:

The Convention, therefore, requires the mapping of biodiversity areas, and provides for their on-going expansion, by giving a special designation to adjacent areas, with a view to incorporating them in the biodiversity areas.

While there is no specific reference to private property, there are numerous references to regulations which allow by inference encroachment on property rights, eg ‘”Protected area” means a geographically defined area which is designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives’.

As Michael Coffman (Agenda 21 Wildlands Project) points out, state control over private property has been central to every international treaty since the 1970s.

The United Nations’ World Commission on Sustainable Development formalized this into international policy when it published its report Our Common Future in 1987. This landmark report helped trigger a wide range of actions, including the UN “Earth Summits” in 1992 and 2002, the International Climate Change ConventionThe Convention on Biological Diversity and worldwide “Agenda 21″ programs.

One of the most explicit UN position statements on private land is contained in the Official Report of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements 1976, also known as Habitat 1:

Land, because of its unique nature and the crucial role it plays in human settlements, cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Social justice, urban renewal and development, the provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole.

Public control of land use is therefore indispensable to its protection as an asset and the achievement of the long-term objectives of human settlement policies and strategies.

New Zealanders have traditionally put a high value on universal home ownership, being a buffer against poverty and making an important contribution to family security.  Hernando de Soto found that strong property rights are the basis of liberty and wealth creation, as they enable ordinary people to use their homes as equity to start a business.

See also: Agenda 21 Simplified: the Eradication of Private Property Rights

While the Convention on Biological Biodiversity binds governments to take certain legislative action, it has no authority in a country per se, i.e. unless governments pass the necessary legislation.  Thus there should be a clear legal authority which links the Convention to the GWRC Policy Statement, which has proved very difficult to pinpoint.

The Legislative Pathway

Wellington City Council: The biodiversity strategy implements the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement which ‘introduced policies to protect important areas of native bush and landscapes, making Backyard Tāonga part of a regional legal requirement’.

The Greater Wellington Regional Policy Statement: Takes its authority from the provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991.

4.1 Regulatory policies –  Policies that must be given effect to by regional, city or district plans (in accordance with sections 67(3)(c) and 75(3)(c) of the Resource Management Act, 1991).

The RMA (see above and also the Appendix] is clearly not the inspiration for the SNA biodiversity strategy.  However, the RPS also acknowledges that:

The Documents which informed this Regional Policy Statement include the New Zealand Energy Strategy to 2050 (2007), the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (2007), the Regional Renewable Energy Assessment for the Wellington Region (2006) [only 2008 located], the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol (2006) and National Priorities for Action for Protecting Biodiversity on Private Land (2007).

None of the first three are concerned with encroachment on private land or biodiversity, not even the Renewable Energy Assessment (despite the implications that wind farms have for wildlife).  Nor is the Urban Design Protocol, except that it  decrees that quality urban design ‘facilitates green networks that link public and private open space’ (an idea also mentioned in the RPS), meaning unclear.

The National Priorities for Action for Protecting Biodiversity on Private Land (2007) set out the following ‘National Priorities’ (p. 2):

  1. To protect indigenous vegetation associated with land environments (defined by Land Environments of New Zealand at Level IV), that have 20% or less remaining in indigenous cover.

  2. To protect indigenous vegetation associated with sand dunes and wetlands; ecosystem types that have become uncommon due to human activity.

  3. To protect indigenous vegetation associated with ‘originally rare’ terrestrial ecosystem types not already covered by priorities 1 and 2.

  4. To protect habitats of acutely and chronically threatened indigenous species.

[…] Our expectation is that the priorities in this statement will be used to support and inform councils’ biodiversity responsibilities under the Resource Management Act. We believe this can be best achieved within a co[o]perative rather than a legislative framework.

There is no mention of creating SNAs in urban areas, nor buffer zones or corridors.  It does however refer to the NZ Biodiversity Strategy (2000) which states:

Maintain and restore a full range of remaining natural habitats and ecosystems to a healthy functioning state, enhance critically scarce habitats, and sustain the more modified ecosystems in production and urban environments and do what else is necessary to maintain and restore viable populations of all indigenous species and subspecies across their natural range and maintain their genetic diversity. (Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment, 2000, p.18)

The statement refers to the following legislative provisions

7 Legislative Provisions for Protecting Indigenous Biodiversity
   7.1 Legislation
7.1.1 Resource Management Act 1991
7.2 Biodiversity Convention and Strategy
7.2.1 Convention on Biological Diversity
7.2.2 New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy

The present  New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000, still in force, includes  under Objective 1.1 of its Action Plan,

Protecting indigenous habitats and ecosystems

a) Complete indigenous biodiversity survey and assessment to identify habitats and ecosystems important for indigenous biodiversity. [Key players…]
b) Add to public conservation lands those habitats and ecosystems important for indigenous biodiversity that are not represented within the existing protected area network or that are at significant risk of irreversible loss or decline, or in situations where public ownership is needed for effective management. […]
c) Encourage and support initiatives to protect and maintain habitats and ecosystems important for indigenous biodiversity on private land using a mixture of mechanisms, recognising the rights, responsibilities and interests of landowners and society, including information, education, voluntary mechanisms, economic incentives, property rights and regulation. […]

d) The 2000 Strategy  thus provides for mapping biodiversity areas, and taking ‘habitats and ecosystems important for indigenous biodiversity’ into ‘public management’ under certain circumstances.  At the same time it emphasises:

‘Securing the willing and active participation of landowners is therefore pivotal to sustaining indigenous biodiversity on private land’ (p. 38)

. In the whole of the Strategy, there is only a fleeting reference to corridors: ‘gaps in knowledge […] (for example, the use of corridors)’ , while ‘buffers’ are mentioned only in relation to Lake Taupo and rivers that feed into it, and the 350 hectare Motatau Forest Reserve.

The Strategy is not, therefore, the missing link between the Convention on Biological Diversity and Greater Wellington Regional Council’s SNA policy.  There is another document, however, which has not been mentioned in the relevant council statements: the Proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.

The Proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity

The Statement has no legal effect: it was announced by the Minister for the Environment in early 2011 but ‘was not progressed due to a lack of stakeholder agreement on its content […]’.

Despite its lack of legal standing,  the Statement appears to be the inspiration for the GWRC’s Policy Statement – alternatively the connection could be spurious, in that both could be inspired by another document, as yet undetermined.

The statement recommends:

  • the retention of as many ‘elements’ as possible
  • the retention of existing vegetation, whether indigenous or not (but not including recognised pest plants), that provides habitat for indigenous species or seasonal food sources for indigenous species (i.e. every tree in Wellington)
  • buffer zones
  • corridors (‘ecological linkage’)
  • ways to address the problem of private property.

This national policy statement seeks to:
1. bring more clarity to the role of local authorities in biodiversity management under the RMA than may be apparent on the face of the Act itself.

To promote the maintenance of biodiversity outside of identified areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna, and to support the resilience and viability of populations and species assemblages within identified areas and habitats, decision-makers should:

a. recognise the contribution that all remaining areas of indigenous vegetation make to the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and encourage the retention of as many elements as possible
b. recognise the full range of potential adverse effects on indigenous biodiversity including, but not limited to, population fragmentation, degradation of non-living components (eg, water and soil), interruption to breeding cycles and migratory pathways, and increased exposure to invasive introduced plant and animal species that pose a threat to indigenous biodiversity.
c. encourage the retention of existing vegetation, whether indigenous or not (but not including recognised pest plants), that provides:
i. habitat for indigenous species
ii. seasonal food sources for indigenous species
iii. ecological linkage between areas and habitats identified in accordance with Policy 4
iv. a buffer to indigenous vegetation for areas and habitats identified in accordance with Policy 4
d. when the retention of existing vegetation and habitat will not achieve sustainable management, encourage measures that mitigate and offset adverse effects on indigenous species during, and subsequent to, removal or modification of that vegetation or habitat through harvest or clearance or other activity that may threaten the survival of affected species populations
e. encourage the planting of naturally occurring, locally sourced indigenous species and the creation of habitats for indigenous species as well as plant and animal pest control
f. encourage the establishment of additional indigenous riparian vegetation as a means of increasing connectivity and enhancing freshwater habitat for indigenous species
g. ensure human-made structures do not adversely impact on indigenous species by interfering with their natural migratory movements
h. consider both regulatory incentives (such as bonus development rights in exchange for protection and enhancement of vegetation and habitats) and non regulatory incentives, (such as technical advice and practical help) to support and encourage landowners to make appropriate land management decisions.


Restoration and enhancement means the active intervention and management of degraded biotic communities, landforms and landscapes in order to restore biological character, ecological and physical processes.

Private property:

Delivering on [the role of the RMA and local authorities] has, however, proved challenging for local authorities for the following reasons:

  • areas and habitats of indigenous species occur on private land and there can be tensions between the aspirations of private landowners for land use and development and the need to protect those areas habitats [..]

  • overall success is reliant on the goodwill and sympathetic management of the many private landowners on whose properties indigenous species and ecosystems remain. That needs to be remembered in the way we manage for biodiversity under the Act.

The Policy Statement sought to address these challenges, as it aimed to:

help decision-makers appropriately balance the protection of biodiversity, the interests and values of tangata whenua, the rights and responsibilities of landowners and the broader national interests that may be at stake in future resource management decision-making.

Other Forces

Wellington, along with many other cities world-wide, belongs to a number of local authority networks.  They include 100 Resilient Cities, C40 Cities and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability, which are funded by elite foundations and major corporations, or partnered with networks funded by the same, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society, Google, Microsft and L’Oréal (see, e.g. C40 partners)   David Rockefeller, a major force behind the development of Agenda 21 and the UN narratives of ‘biodiversity and ‘global warming’, personally founded 100 Resilient Cities.  The function of these Networks is the implementation of Agenda 21. Both ICLEI and 100 Resilient Cities have strong ‘biodiversity’ policies.

A number of American states have moved to ban ICLEI and Agenda 21 , with mixed success, because of the threat they pose to private property rights.  The New Hampshire Bill of 2012 read:

No agency or department of the state shall implement programs of, expend any sum for, be a member of, receive funding from, contract for services from, or give financial or other forms of aid to the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), and its derivatives, in furtherance of the United Nations program known as Agenda 21.

Future Legislation

The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and the National Policy Statement on Biodiversity are in the process of being updated.  The intention is to bring them into line with the polices apparent in the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Greater Wellington Regional Policy, and the SNA initiatives – this means the prioritising of ‘biodiversity’ over human rights and human welfare, with a vision of ever-expanding protected areas, and ever-shrinking  human habitat, and an ever-increasing alienation of people from nature.  (See the section on the new draft Biodiversity Strategy here.)


The Resource Management Act

Part 2, Purpose and Principles

5 Purpose

(1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural
and physical resources.
(2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development,
and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which
enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural
well-being and for their health and safety while—
(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding
minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations;
(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems;
(c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on
the environment.

6 Matters of national importance

In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and
powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection
of natural and physical resources, shall recognise and provide for the following
matters of national importance:
(a) the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment
(including the coastal marine area), wetlands, and lakes and rivers and
their margins, and the protection of them from inappropriate subdivision,
use, and development:
(b) the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from
inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:
(c) the protection of areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant
habitats of indigenous fauna:
(d) the maintenance and enhancement of public access to and along the
coastal marine area, lakes, and rivers:
(e) the relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their
ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu, and other taonga:
(f) the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use,
and development:
(g) the protection of protected customary rights:
(h) the management of significant risks from natural hazards.

7: Other matters

In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and
powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection
of natural and physical resources, shall have particular regard to—
(a) kaitiakitanga:
(aa) the ethic of stewardship:
(b) the efficient use and development of natural and physical resources:
(ba) the efficiency of the end use of energy:
(c) the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values:
(d) intrinsic values of ecosystems:
(e) [Repealed]
(f) maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment:
(g) any finite characteristics of natural and physical resources:
(h) the protection of the habitat of trout and salmon:
(i) the effects of climate change:
(j) the benefits to be derived from the use and development of renewable

Section 30:  Functions of regional councils under this Act

(1) Every regional council shall have the following functions for the purpose of giving effect to this Act in its region […](ga) the establishment, implementation, and review of objectives, policies, and methods for maintaining indigenous biological diversity:

31 Functions of territorial authorities under this Act

(1) Every territorial authority shall have the following functions for the purpose of
giving effect to this Act in its district:
(a) the establishment, implementation, and review of objectives, policies,
and methods to achieve integrated management of the effects of the use,
development, or protection of land and associated natural and physical
resources of the district:
(aa) the establishment, implementation, and review of objectives, policies,
and methods to ensure that there is sufficient development capacity in
respect of housing and business land to meet the expected demands of
the district:
(b) the control of any actual or potential effects of the use, development, or
protection of land, including for the purpose of—
(i) the avoidance or mitigation of natural hazards; and
(ii) [Repealed]
(iia) the prevention or mitigation of any adverse effects of the development,
subdivision, or use of contaminated land:
(iii) the maintenance of indigenous biological diversity:
(f) any other functions specified in this Act.
(2) The methods used to carry out any functions under subsection (1) may include
the control of subdivision.

10 thoughts on “Significant Natural Areas (SNAs): How NZ Cities Are Implementing Agenda 21 and the American Wildlands Project

  1. This is the same situation as is playing out in Auckland. We also have wildlinks and buffer zones, and SEA’s (significant ecological areas) were added to all types of properties and vegetation – including weeds. If it looked green on the map they slapped an SEA on it. The tracks in the core of our forest (eg our biggest regional park) are now marked permanently closed. And they are opening only a few tracks around the outside. A group of lobbyists/environmentalists and a councillor have formed an ngo group and submitted to parliament that they should control all scientific and education work linked to the park. And are requesting all funding and powers to enter private property.

    1. Thank, you that’s VERY interesting. It’s quite hard to find out what is happening around the country, so any further information on what is happening in Auckland would be welcome.

      I’ve been aware of the Wildlands Project in the US, so I took an interesting in the Biodiversity Strategy when the draft came out (oh, it’s here in NZ), and then people in our suburb got letters (oh, it’s here in our street). In my article on the erosion of private property, I mention an SNA declared in an area I happen to know, now which consists only of private property: garden shrubbery, an empty section where building has been delayed and the blackberry is running rampant, some wild areas on the banks (very Wellington) with pine and agapanthus. In the US, it only takes a protected bird to wander across (or claimed) for development to stop. I can just imagine how it will play out in Wellington. “Wood pigeons like that (exotic tree) in your garden, so we’ll declare the area an SNA. What, the (exotic tree) has died? You have to replace it with a common, fast-growing native which has no appeal for wood pigeons.”

      “The tracks in the core of our forest (eg our biggest regional park) are now marked permanently closed.” This is very consistent with the Wildlands Project of reserve land being inaccessible by humanity, and our ex-Deputy Mayor’s comment when I said the SNAs are often inaccessible to the public: “it’s not about people”. Cities are not about people – if that’s not wacky ideology, I don’t know what is.

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