Hapū leaders ask Far North council to pull the brake on development-stopping land designation

By Whatitiri Te Wake

A modern-day 'land grab' is how some landowners in the Far North have described proposed significant natural area (SNA) designations.

Andrew Kendall of Mitimiti says he isn't stopping until the proposal is overturned by the council and government.

“Claiming these areas as SNAs takes away a lot of our rights and our tikanga and what we've practised over many years to make decisions for our own whenua,” he said.

The Far North District Council has reclassified over a quarter million hectares of land as significant natural areas.  Kendall says their presentations and concerns were met with some mutual commitments of resolve.

Kendall says the plans to restrict whenua Māori come at a “hefty price.”

“The disproportionate effect on Māori is because our land is undeveloped, it is largely in scrub and it hasn't been cleared for farming purposes for a whole lot of reasons.

“Under the purpose of protecting flora and fauna, which we all buy into, those things have sat with our kaitiakitanga for generations,” Kendall said.

Environment Minister James Shaw is saying all will be revealed about SNAs in the government's policy statement for indigenous biodiversity. However, that isn't due until next month as it’s a work in progress.

“One of the drivers for the national policy statement was actually doing a better job with working with Iwi Māori to make sure that the areas under their protection will be better protected”

A hikoi in protest is scheduled to leave Te Rerenga Wairua tomorrow. First stop is to the Dame Whina Cooper's statue in Panguru, then on to the Far North District Council offices in Kaikohe. Hundreds are expected to turn out to the event.