Significant Natural Areas

Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) are areas containing significant indigenous vegetation or significant habitat of indigenous fauna.

Southland District Council recognises that SNAs are that way because of the work landowners and community groups have done over many years.

There are already rules in the District Plan relating to biodiversity and indigenous vegetation and under proposed new legislation those rules may be refined to further maintain and protect the important values of SNAs in the district.

We want you to be part of the conversation as we look at ways to balance protection with practicality.

What is happening?

At a national level, a higher value is being placed on New Zealand’s biodiversity.  

The government’s proposed Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (external link)  (NPS-IB)  (external link) indicates it is likely Council will be required to identify and map all SNAs in the district and, through the District Plan, introduce provisions to maintain and protect them.

However, the proposed NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity is not yet finalised nor in effect, and Southland District Council has not started any on-site mapping of these spaces.

SNAs in Southland

It is anticipated the proposed NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity will be finalised in 2021. At this stage it is likely Council will then need to identify and map all Significant Natural Areas in the district. Council will have five years to do this, after which point changes will need to be made to the District Plan that aim to protect and enhance these areas.

A desktop analysis of how much work may be required to be legislatively compliant has started, and some money has been set aside in the Long Term Plan for this work.

It is anticipated a large number of SNAs will be identified in the Southland district.

Council is committed to working alongside landowners and stakeholder groups throughout this process, once the NPS is finalised.

What is an SNA and how are they identified?

The proposed NPS sets out criteria for identifying SNAs. It states an SNA will meet any one of the attributes of the following four criteria:

  • representativeness
  • diversity and pattern
  • rarity and distinctiveness
  • ecological context

It also states every assessment must include at least

  1. a map of the SNA
  2. a description of its significant attributes, including for each criterion a description of the attribute that applies
  3. a description of the indigenous vegetation, indigenous fauna, habitat and ecosystems present
  4. additional information such as key threats, pressures and management requirements

An assessment must be conducted by a suitably qualified ecologist.

What happens if an SNA is identified on my property?

In general and practical terms, unless you have plans that may impact the SNA, it may not affect you. You may need a resource consent for any activities that would impact or modify the SNA such as clearing indigenous vegetation, any earthworks or other activities that could impact the area.

There are already rules in the District Plan preventing the modification of indigenous vegetation, as well as limits around earthworks, gravel and rock extraction and other such activities. This work to identify SNAs is likely to refine those rules.

When the NPS is finalised, we want to work with you throughout this process. Wherever possible, we will look to support you to maintain and enhance these special places, and can point you to agencies that can help you with this.

What next?

Until the proposed NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity is finalised, no on-site mapping will be undertaken.

Ultimately, Council is bound by legislative requirements and needs to administer the Resource Management Act, however Council is committed to working alongside landowners as this progresses and to looking at ways to work together to ensure we meet statutory requirements while supporting the community.

Key documents

District Plan 2018

Draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (external link)

Southland Regional Policy Statement (external link)

Your views

If you have concerns, comments or suggestions about any of this, please let us know.

Your voice is important and we want to hear it, so we can ensure whatever work required is done in a way that takes all of your views into account.

Find out more

If you have any questions about this work, please contact our Environmental Planning team.

Email SNA@southlanddc.govt.nz or phone 0800 732 732