A Council Out of Control: Letter to Wellington City Councillors

Dear Councillors

In case you didn’t see my letter published in the Dominion Post this morning:

It is absolutely unconscionable that Councillors are seeking to fast-track the whole of the District Plan, thus erasing democratic rights including appeal to the Environmental Court.  This will include the Council’s illegitimate Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) initiative, by which the Council is claiming rights over private land on the grounds that regenerating bush, scrub, garden shrubbery, toxic weeds and lawn constitute ‘indigenous biodiversity of national importance’.

Councillors and council officers know full well that expropriating private land in the absence of exceptional circumstances is and always has been unlawful, as evidenced by:

Legislative Guidelines (adopted by Cabinet 2021) recognise ‘respect for property’ as a fundamental constitutional principle: ‘New legislation should respect property rights.  People are entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their property.’

The Resource Management Act underlines the importance of property rights and makes it very clear that while all measures should be taken to protect the natural environment, and especially indigenous flora of significance, the welfare of people and communities comes first.

The Biodiversity Strategy 2000, in force when the SNAs were rolled out in 2019, emphasises, ‘Securing the willing and active participation of landowners is therefore pivotal to sustaining indigenous biodiversity on private land’.

As well as ignoring basic principles of property rights and the loss of value to land owners, the Council knows that the policy is counter-effective, as it punishes rather than rewards residents who care about native plants.  The Council is weaponising biodiversity, not encouraging it.

SNAs will also have the effect of reducing land for housing.

The aims of the project can only be to normalise expropriation of private land without justification, and to further the Council’s anti-people vision of Wellington as a city of apartments with humanity cut off from nature, with no gardens, none of the exotic flowers and trees loved by our birds and bugs: just concrete and kawakawa; Gondwanaland with tower blocks.

It won’t, of course, be Gondwanaland – Wellington’s fastest growing natives will not replace the biodiversity of either pre-human times or our mix of bush and exotics.

The Council has done its best to keep the SNA policy quiet, with little or no attempt to inform the public as a whole.  However it received a large number of submissions to the Draft District Plan, either demanding that the whole project be canned, or asking that private property be exempt.  This latest response shows that the Council is doubling down, quite oblivious to questions of democracy, traditional values, and human welfare.  Certainly there is no intention of allowing Wellingtonians the ‘peaceful enjoyment of their property’.

The Council is clearly out of control, bulldozing through a policy patently unlawful and anathema to almost all who know about it, while  showing throughout the project a total contempt for democracy.

Barbara McKenzie
Wellington SNA Committee

Note: ‘Wellington City Councillors will be asked next Thursday [31/03/2022] to support a staff proposal to seek government approval to fast-track the entire District plan’ (Fast-tracking the District Plan – and removing any right of appeal).  The Dominion Post has reported (28/03/2022) that some councillors have already expressed support for the proposal, including Rebecca Matthews, Fleur Fitzsimmons, Tamatha Paul and Teri O’Neill.

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