The RUB on our SEA properties
It was a classic quote which opened Saturday matinee jungle drama films I was addicted to as a child.
Two planters/big game hunters sipping gin and tonic on their veranda in the dusk, their topee helmets on the floor beside them, drum rumbles in the distance. ‘‘The natives sound restless tonight!’’
Racist references aside, that’s very true. Auckland city ratepayers, both urbanites and outliers, are beating drum equivalents over the Unitary Plan, the blueprint for the next 30 years – all 11⁄ metres tall and weighing 50kg as it does.
It will establish a Rural Urban Boundary, abbreviated – as local body speakers are compulsively bound to do – as the RUB and involving region-wide controls and planning conditions.
For tens of thousands of ratepayers, that RUB seems like that old definition ‘‘rub of the green’’ – unforeseen and usually unfortunate outcomes.
Experienced local council members are putting what they see as a case for the plan – and for themselves in the next local body elections in October.
Some RUB outcomes are far from unforeseen. Like the suggested provisions for fourstorey buildings in Warkworth where urban now meets rural without jarring buildings more than 10.5 metres high. The plan’s suggested new height is 16.5 metres.
I believe that would transform Warkworth into a distant suburb of a faraway, modern city rather than the appealing, long-established township it is with a distinctive atmosphere and its river port history, its pride in being a wartime centre for American troop training for Pacific War missions.
In the mail today was our link with the RUB. Our home at Leigh is apparently an SEA in the RUB, as they put it!
Our garden, with one small spreading puriri, tree ferns and shrubs framing a seashell petanque court but dominated by so-called exotics (plum tree, roses, hydrangeas) is a ‘‘ Significant Ecological Area’’, according to a definition under the draft plan involving ‘‘uniqueness and distinctiveness supporting plants or wildlife that are unique to the location or to Auckland’’.
How about that! totally unforeseen.
But with small print: ‘‘Having a SEA on your property may affect how you use the area. Minor vegetation prun-
And ing and trimming, pruning of trees within three metres of a dwelling . . . ecological restoration and emergency works to protect people or property would all be permitted.’’
This from the council which was powerless to stop an overseas developer felling an historic and giant pohutukawa in The Drive the same week we got our new and rather exciting definition. How do they find out all this about SEAs?
‘‘ . . . using existing information about ecological areas held by the council, others were identified from recent aerial photography and others were surveyed by field ecologists.’’
Great. Presumably the council flyover or ground mission picked up the telltale spread of weeds and nonindigenous and rampant morning glory, that creeper we are in constant and expensive battle with just across the fence from our SEA.
The photographers and/or survey teams could make it clear to the owners of that derelict land that this has got to stop. It breaches the RUB plan. The owners of this eyesore – a so-called paper road? Auckland Council. The very same!
If a field ecologist had called on us we could have discussed the planting and the preponderance of non-natives in this new definition of our garden.
I was reminded vividly of quotes from Rodney Federated Farmers president John Glasson that SEAs have been appearing ‘‘like fleas on a dog’’.
Tapora landowner and Landowners and Contractors Association secretary Julie Cotton: ‘‘ Landowners become frightened of having the council on their property.
‘‘It takes one graduate ecologist to identify a random twig and the next thing you know half your property is fenced off. This is our livelihood.’’
Deputy mayor Penny Hulse, in an opinion in local media headed ‘‘Don’t panic – we are ready to listen’’ says: ‘‘We don’t want to frighten the farmers and we certainly don’t want to tell them to fence all their streams in the next year.’’
And she adds: ‘‘There is a risk with heritage stuff. People know we’re making it harder to demolish and it’s easier now so we do risk having a whole lot of demolition permits. And people might also go in and chop a lot of trees down.
‘‘That’s the downside of being transparent but I believe it’s better to be out there rather than shock people come September.’’ Cutting down trees? Not in our neck of the woods. Not OK in our new SEA, Penny. No way. In the mailbag:
From a regular writer:
‘‘People who care about what they eat and the future of the world’s bees, birds, butterflies and other life should be concerned at Monsanto’s latest triumph.
‘‘Their power isn’t limited to the US but to every country where Monsanto operates, and wherever there is an American embassy pushing US products including Monsanto’s.
‘‘This latest report from the UK Guardian says: Monsanto and the US farm biotech industry wield legendary power. A revolving door allows corporate chiefs to switch to top posts in the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies; US embassies around the world push GM technology on to dissenting countries; government subsidies back corporate research; federal regulators do largely as the industry wants; the companies pay millions of dollars a year to lobby politicians; conservative thinktanks combat any political opposition; the courts enforce corporate patents on seeds; and the consumer is denied labels or information.
‘‘But even people used to
letter the closeness of the US administration and food giants like Monsanto have been shocked by the latest demonstration of the GM industry’s political muscle. Little-noticed in Europe or outside the US, President Barack Obama last week signed off what has become widely known as ‘the Monsanto Protection Act’.
‘‘Environment groups and others opposed to GM are deeply concerned.
‘‘People who wonder what all the fuss about GM foods is about may be interested in this excerpt from a comparison of nutrients in natural corn and GM [genetically modified] corn.
‘‘GMO corn has 14ppm [parts per million] of calcium and non GMO corn has 6130ppm [parts per million] – 437 times more.
‘‘GMO corn has 2ppm of magnesium and non GMO corn has 113ppm – 56 times more.
‘‘GMO corn has 2ppm of manganese and Non GMO corn has 14ppm – seven times more.
‘‘I don’t know what’s scarier here ... the poor nutrition in the GMO corn or the fact that there is only one non-GMO corn seed company in all of Canada – wrote my informant from Canada, where GM is big.’’