The protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use and development is a matter of national importance. Outstanding natural features and landscapes are memorable, affording aesthetic pleasure and experiences that are shared and valued by a wider community. Outstanding natural features and landscapes have natural and cultural dimensions that are central to a community’s identity and sense of belonging. They are places that reveal a community’s history and a coherence and connectedness of people’s lives through time and space.

A number of outstanding natural features and landscapes and their associated values are identified in Schedule G1. These outstanding natural features and landscapes exist on both public and private land and were originally identified by the Regional Council, in consultation with the Territorial Authorities and the Department of Conservation, and included in the Regional Policy Statement for the Manawatu-Wanganui Region (August 1998). In determining these natural features and landscapes as being “outstanding and regionally significant” specific matters were considered, including geographical and geological features and their contribution to the Region’s character, ecological significance, the cultural significance of the site* or area, amenity, intrinsic, scientific and recreational values, and any recognised (national or regional) level of protection.

Territorial Authorities have the responsibility of managing the effects of land use, through district plan provisions and land use resource consents. Consequently, the management of competing pressures for the subdivision, use and development of land that may affect outstanding natural features and landscapes is most appropriately dealt with at a territorial level. However, to aid local decision-making, regional policies provide guidance for managing the effects of subdivision, use and development of land that may affect outstanding natural features and landscapes. In addition, a revised set of factors to be considered when assessing landscapes and natural features is provided, to aid decision making, and includes natural science factors, aesthetic values, expressiveness (legibility), transient values, shared and recognised values, cultural and spiritual values for tangata whenua^ and historic heritage values.

Preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment, wetlands, rivers, lakes and their margins is also a matter of national importance. Natural character is generally accepted as being an expression of:
  • natural landform,
  • natural water bodies (lakes and rivers) and the sea,
  • vegetation cover (type and pattern),
  • natural processes associated with the weather and the ecology,
  • wildness, exposure, and the natural sculpturing of landforms and vegetation, and
  • the wider landscape context and the sites* relationship to this.

Natural character is a sliding scale and varies from a low degree of natural character, such as urban environments, to a high degree of natural character (for example, Tongariro National Park).

The approach of the One Plan is to at least maintain, and enhance where appropriate, the current degree of natural character of the coastal environment, wetlands, rivers, lakes and their margins by:
  • continuing to provide a regional policy on natural character to guide decision-making,
  • protecting and managing indigenous biological diversity, important wetlands,rivers and lakes as described elsewhere in this Plan, and
  • restoring and rehabilitating natural character where appropriate.

The natural character of rivers, lakes and their margins can be adversely affected by activities, in particular structures and flood mitigation measures such as stopbanks. It is important that preservation of the natural character of rivers, lakes and their margins, where this is reasonable, is considered when making decisions on relevant activities. The natural character of wetlands can best be provided for by proactively managing the top 100 wetlands in the Region (as provided for in the sections of this chapter dealing with indigenous biological diversity).

Chapter 8 addresses the management of activities in the coastal marine area (CMA), including policy guidance on the management of the elements of landscapes and seascapes that contribute to the natural character of the CMA. Chapter 6 deals with outstanding natural features and landscapes and the natural character of the non-CMA portion of the coastal environment landward of mean high water springs and wetlands, rivers, lakes and their margins.

The coastal environment has seen some change in the last 10 years. There has been an increase in residential subdivision on both the western and eastern coastlines. Within a 1 km inland coastal strip, however, this development accounts for only 4% of the area. Although residential development is expected to continue, it is unlikely to affect the natural character of the coast at a regional scale for some time beyond the life of this Plan. Nevertheless, it is important and appropriate for local decision-making on land use, particularly residential subdivision, to continue to take into account the natural character of a particular

1    Schedule G is a component of Part I - the Regional Policy Statement.