West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield

A letter circulated by a rural lobby group about the draft Te Tai o Poutini Plan has been described as “mischief making”.
In the letter, Groundswell describes provisions in the new plan — including the yet to be finalised Significant Natural Area (SNA) identification — as a “land grab”, and calls for the plan to be immediately withdrawn.
West Coast Regional Council chairman and TTPP committee member Allan Birchfield said he agreed with Groundswell, as the plan was “an attack on private property rights and democracy”.
“I’m getting a lot of calls over the Maori sites of significance on (ratepayers’) land.
“The plan should be withdrawn and we take a bit more time with it.
“They say it’s a draft but if you look at it, it actually comes into effect. It has immediate effect, a lot of it.”
Cr Birchfield was the sole plan committee member who voted against its formal notification.
However, fellow plan committee member and Te Runanga o Makaawhio chairman Paul Madgwick described the letter as “mischief making”.
The sites of significance to Maori was required by the National Planning Standards rolled out nationwide, Mr Madgwick said.
About 260 sites had been mapped, “and that’s what people are now learning about”.
“We were careful in doing this to ensure as far as possible that we didn’t intrude on people’s private property rights.
“A lot of these sites are on private land but they don’t have any encumbrances on them at all. All that we are pointing out with these is that there is a previous history — that’s all.”
Mr Madgwick said there was sympathy on the West Coast for Groundswell, which was set up as a rural lobby, but they needed to stick to the facts.
“This is mischief making from Groundswell and it’s really unhelpful.
“We resent (SNAs) as much as the next person but Groundswell loses credibility by going out with half the story.
“It’s absolute fear mongering for them to try and compare sites of Maori significance with SNAs. SNAs are an abhorrence for private property rights as opposed to sites of significance to Maori which are a simple acknowledgment of past history.”
Buller Mayor and plan committee member Jamie Cleine said the fact individual letters went to ratepayers affected by provisions such as Maori sites was a surprise to him, as he had asked if individual ratepayers were going to be notified of the specific aspects.
“The answer was no.”
Many parts of the proposed plan signalled “significant changes” from the current three district plans.
“I think all we can really say now is it is a draft plan and people really should put in submissions.
“The other thing to know is that for all the classifications in the plan, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do anything.”
* Iwi representative Paul Madgwick is also editor of the Greymouth Star and Hokitika Guardian