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The natural environment



From the Hunua Ranges in the north to the volcanic features of Karioi and Pirongia in the south, Waikato District boasts a number of outstanding natural landscapes and landscape features. As part of the Council’s District Plan Review, these have been identified and evaluated in a district-wide study.

Together with the Outstanding Natural Landscapes (ONLs) of the Hunua Ranges, Mt Karioi and Mt Pirongia, a dozen Outstanding Natural Features (ONFs) have also been identified.  These are Pouraureroa Stream Bush (Mangatawhiri), Waikato River and Wetlands (the river delta), Whangamarino Wetland, Lake Waikare, Lake Whangape, Taupiri Range, Te Hoe, Hakarimata Range, Kokako Hills, Wairenga (Bridal Veil Falls), Te Pahi (a large stand of native bush at the northern end of Aotea Harbour), and Oioroa (a sand dune area at the north head of Aotea Harbour). The study also identified a number of areas in the district as being ‘significant’.  These are areas with high landscape value, but which lie below the threshold for identification as ONLs or ONFs.

To include a Maaori world view approach in the Waikato District Landscape Study, a set of evaluation criteria was also established in collaboration with Waikato District Council’s Iwi Reference Group.  Based on Maaori culture and traditions, these provided the basis for a distinctive parallel evaluation of our landscape. 

Significant Natural Areas

Identifying Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) is also part of the District Plan Review process.

After initial mapping by Waikato Regional Council and a year-long engagement process with 4,500 landowners, Council has identified about 1,000 SNAs covering approximately 70,000ha of the district, including wetlands and peat lakes, lowland forest and kahikatea stands, and coastal and gully ecosystems. While some SNAs are on public land, most are on privately-held blocks.

About 1,000 landowners engaged with Council staff in writing, telephone discussion and one-on-one meetings. We also visited 50 properties to help refine the mapping.
Indigenous vegetation clearance in SNAs will be permitted for maintenance of existing tracks and fences, protecting structures, new fencing for stock exclusion and for building platforms. Clearance of manuka and kanuka under 4m in height will also be a permitted activity outside of identified SNAs.

We know from initial feedback that landowners are keen to enhance and protect these areas and would like technical assistance and access to funding to do so.