Mak­ing tough choices

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

An ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled Tough Choice — Houses or Food in the Fe­bru­ary 22 is­sue of NZ Farm­ers Weekly struck a chord with me re­gard­ing coun­cil’s cur­rent district plan re­view and the de­ci­sions we must make.

The ar­ti­cle was based on com­ments by econ­o­mist Shamubeel

Eaqub, who was quoted as say­ing that “New Zealand needs a pol­icy to al­low for pop­u­la­tion growth while en­sur­ing enough pro­duc­tive land re­mains to feed ex­tra peo­ple.” Some in­ter­est­ing facts were noted, for ex­am­ple that in the 35 years from 1975 Auck­land lost 10,080ha of high-value land, and other re­gions, such as Can­ter­bury and Waikato, also had sig­nif­i­cant losses. Other re­ports I’ve seen have said that life­style blocks are also hav­ing an im­pact — in 2013 they cov­ered 10 per cent of New Zealand’s best land.

Farm­ers Weekly high­lighted Shamubeel’s con­cerns that “you can’t swap a hectare of high-qual­ity veg­etable land in Pukekohe and sim­ply grow the same things on a hectare down south,” and urg­ing pol­icy-mak­ers to put a 100-year per­spec­tive on de­ci­sions made to­day.

Th­ese con­cerns and more are the very is­sues we too must face in our district. Con­sider the de­mands on ur­ban growth in Kerik­eri and the last 35 years over which that growth has oc­curred. Con­sider the loss to hous­ing of elite hor­ti­cul­tural land and the in­creas­ing de­mand of re­tire­ment units. Also con­sider the spread of life­style blocks in the greater area known as Kerik­eri, and the pres­sure on in­fra­struc­ture to serve such a large area.

How do we balance ur­ban growth while pro­tect­ing our high­value soils across the whole district? How can we en­sure soils bet­ter suited for hor­ti­cul­ture through­out the whole district are pre­served, even if they are cur­rently un­der low-re­turn farm­ing?

Nor are th­ese prob­lems lim­ited to Kerik­eri. Pai­hia is un­der pres­sure through sig­nif­i­cant sea­sonal pop­u­la­tion in­creases. Kaitaia is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mas­sive growth in hor­ti­cul­ture and as­so­ci­ated wa­ter de­mands. Then we have long-term con­sid­er­a­tions of cli­mate change, en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and the like.

Th­ese are the very is­sues raised in the con­sul­ta­tive phase of the district plan re­view. Your re­sponses are cur­rently be­ing con­sid­ered by our plan­ning staff. It all takes time, but I’m sure all can see why it’s so im­por­tant and crit­i­cal to get it right. The plan­ning, poli­cies, and as­so­ci­ated strate­gies must have a 50 to 100-year per­spec­tive, and in­clude the whole Far North District.

Sure, tough choices will need to be made, but even more im­por­tantly, they need to be the right choices. That will mean in­volv­ing our re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties in th­ese de­ci­sions, en­sur­ing choices are backed with solid ev­i­dence and sound gov­ern­ment poli­cies. We will also need zon­ing that sup­ports and pro­tects ap­pro­pri­ate land use and en­cour­ages sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment to en­sure a fu­ture for our chil­dren.

"The plan­ning, poli­cies, and as­so­ci­ated strate­gies must have a 50 to 100-year per­spec­tive, and in­clude the whole Far North District."

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