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Proposal to protect native species on farms a potential 'land grab' from Government, farmers say

A Government proposal to protect native species on farms is being described as a potential "land grab" by farmers.

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Farmers are worried that the Government categorising land with native flora and fauna as "significant natural areas" could force them off the land. Source: 1 NEWS

Farmers are worried that categorising land with native flora and fauna as "Significant Natural Areas" could force them off the land.

A paddock in North Canterbury could be among the farms put up for pasture.

“That pretty well fits the definition of a land grab,” farmer Jamie McFadden said.

With native forest and birds such as the New Zealand falcon calling the Hurunui farm home, brothers Jamie and Scott McFadden worry they could be blocked from developing large chunks of the 800 hectare block if councils are given greater power to categorise land a “significant natural area”.

“Where properties like ours maybe had five per cent of our land mapped as SNA, we're probably looking somewhere around 30 to 50 per cent,” McFadden said.

For years, the Government has been working with Forest and Bird as well as Federated Farmers to expand these conservation rules, arguing the proposed changes won't stop landowners from what they've already been doing on the land.

“What we know is that New Zealand's indigenous biodiversity is in a state of crisis,” Environment Minister James Shaw said.

Under the Resource Management Act, councils were given the power to identify Significant Natural Areas. Hurunui District Council were in the process of doing just that when they were forced to stop due to backlash from farmers.

“That’s the fundamental right of local government - to listen to community, advocate for your community,” Hurunui District Mayor Marie Black said.

Shaw is proposing to change the rules so councils are unable to back out.

“It's not like we've got a central group of people mapping these out and then telling councils what they have to do,” Shaw said. “They have to map those out for themselves.”

McFadden wants farmers to deny access to surveyors after the last survey was used against him and he lost thousands of dollars fighting for the family farm.

“The councils - they're getting wrapped up in straitjackets now,” McFadden said.

Shaw said it would be “kind of up to them”.

“I certainly don’t think it will spiral out of control at all.”

Consultation is ongoing, with many hoping the drive to protect our wildlife will not drive them off the farm.