Last year, the Environment Court overturned part of the Mackenzie District Council's District Plan, and declared the MacKenzie Country to be an outstanding natural landscape. The decision would limit development, and in particular irrigation, so Federated Farmers appealed it to the High Court. But now, that appeal has been dropped:
The decision has major implications for the basin. Mackenzie District planning manager Nathan Hole said although new development in the basin could still occur, "it does mean that land use should not degrade or affect the integrity of the landscape.There's still some legal issues to resolve, but it looks like the Mackenzie will stay brown.
"The detail of how this is achieved is still being worked through with the Environment Court, but essentially the council's district plan will have objectives and policies, and rules [to assist this]."
Resource Management law lecturer Ceri Warnock, of Otago University, said declaring an area an "outstanding natural landscape" was the most protective category outside of conservation land.
"Any developers would have to show that their activity does not hinder the preservation of the landscape's qualities. For example, it is unlikely that irrigator pivots would be allowed," she said.