Clearing native vegetation

Ashburton District Council is reminding farmers to check with Council before clearing native vegetation after a Mid Canterbury farmer narrowly avoided legal action.

An investigation by the Ashburton District Council earlier this year found the farmer did not have resource consent to remove native vegetation from his land.

Ashburton District Council, like other councils, has rules in its District Plan protecting indigenous vegetation.

Farmers wishing to poison or remove native plants should check with Council's planning department first to find out what the rules are and whether they need to apply for resource consent.

Failure to do so can be costly. Offenders can be prosecuted and fined tens of thousands of dollars.

Council's Environmental Services Committee chair Councillor Alan Totty says the farmer was lucky to avoid legal action for the unlawful clearance of Matagouri.

Council has discretion on whether to prosecute and in this case decided not to.

Mr Totty says the farmer has since made a financial contribution to the Council's biodiversity fund.

"I have paid $10,000 to the Council's biodiversity fund to assist with planting of native vegetation as tangible recognition of my remorse and reparation for the damage which I have caused," the farmer says.

"Having been through a Council investigation, which has been both stressful and expensive, I would urge any farmer contemplating clearing native vegetation to make enquiries with the Council first."

Councillor Totty warns that ignorance of the rules is not a valid excuse.

"The Council takes its responsibility to protect biodiversity seriously and landowners are strongly encouraged to discuss any proposals with planning staff first."

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Page reviewed: 09 Apr 2015 3:00pm