Achieving a satisfactory outcome now rests with Council and Mana Whenua
Craggy Range has today met with interested parties to present the landscape report into options to remediate the walking track built on the eastern slopes of Te Mata Peak in late 2017.
At the meeting were Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and District Council CEO Ross McLeod, Ngahiwi Tomoana and Marei Apatu from Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, Rex Graham, Chair of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Mike Devonshire and Michael Bate of Te Mata Park Trust.
The landscape report was commissioned by Craggy Range and prepared by Hudson Associates, then peer reviewed by Shannon Bray of Wayfinder Landscape Planning and Strategy Ltd. The report was then reviewed by resource management barrister, John Maassen.
The landscape report sets out five options, all of which have been assessed for their landscape and legal consequences, and feasibility.
Mike Wilding, Chief Executive of Craggy Range, says the landscape options report and the legal assessment show achieving an outcome that satisfies everyone is almost impossible without compromise.
“After listening to Mana Whenua and the community back in December, my proposal was motivated by a principled belief that removing the track was the right thing to do for the community, iwi and the landscape.
My motivations and concern for the landscape and community interests have not changed, but I now have extensive expert landscape and legal advice so am far more informed about the legal and resource consent implications of the proposal.
It is now very clear that removing the track is not as simple as we or others thought, and nor will it achieve an outcome to everyone’s satisfaction. We are simply not prepared to take a direction that will leave the land in a worse condition and one that involves us in further contentious arguments about whether the track should be closed.
Through the District Plan, the RMA is designed to protect values important to the community – landscape, recreational and cultural. When those values are assessed alongside our obligations to the resource consent already in place for the walking track, none of the options in front of us allow me to fulfil the commitment I made back in December without leaving the landscape in worse condition than it is now, the recreational value to the community being lost, the Council being subject to legal challenge, or all three.” he says.
Mr Wilding says there is however one option in the Landscape Report that would enhance Te Mata Peaks’ eastern slope as an ‘outstanding natural landscape’ and allow the track to remain. This option could probably be delivered under the conditions of Craggy Range’s existing consent.
For this option is to go ahead, Hastings District Council and Mana Whenua would need to agree, and the consent could still be subject to judicial review, although unlikely.
“This option would allow for a section of the eastern slope to be rehabilitated into a natural habitat delivering significantly improved and sustainable outcomes including enhancing biodiversity and bird habitat, while reducing the visibility of the track.” says Mr Wilding.
To my mind, this is the only option that makes any sense. It achieves a positive outcome for the whole community and meets all of the relevant requirements of the RMA and the District Plan.
As the Bray report says, any rehabilitation is an exercise in minimising effects and cannot hope to fully return the landscape to its pre-construction condition. But other options such as revegetation would most likely result in improvements to the landscape.
I believe that is why this option would be a win-win for everyone, but the next steps now rest with Hastings District Council and Mana Whenua.
For the sake of the community and so this issue doesn’t continue to cause divisions or cost ratepayers in legal action against the Council, I hope the Treaty partners can see their way to making the right decision together.
Otherwise, we will have no option but to continue to rely on our consent and implement the subdivision to meet our contractual obligations relating to the purchase of the land.
We are in this situation because we and Mana Whenua were unwitting casualties of a District Plan that has been found to have shortcomings. We have fulfilled our commitment to do the work to identify all possible options to remedy the situation and I am committed to the solution that is best for the community, iwi, and the landscape.
“Now it is up to Council to work with Mana Whenua to take the next step for the environment and the whole community.” Mr Wilding concluded.
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