Increased signage and advertising can also impact upon the visual amenity and traffic safety of the environment; however, the number of resource consent applications for off-site signage has remained low since 2008/09. There have been only two applications received since 2012/13. One application was received in 2015/16 for a billboard in Thames Street, Morrinsville, predominantly used for community or local advertising. The only other application in the last six years was for a petrol station price display sign to be located on a neighbouring property.
Complaints about signage can relate to the size of text, content, location and size of a sign. In 2015/16, six complaints were received about signage, four of which related to signage for business activities. 10 complaints were received in both the 2016-17 and 2017/18 years about signage; mainly about real estate or business’s sandwich-board style signs.
Removing trees can also have an impact on amenity values. As of 2017/18, there are 97 scheduled protected tree sites in the district. Very few resource consents have been granted for the removal of protected trees since two were granted in 2008/09, as shown below:
During 2008, Council completed a plan change to amend the tree protection provisions within the District Plan. Previously, a resource consent was needed to remove, or do any major work to any tree over 10 metres in height. This approach was deemed to be too restrictive by Council, and changes to the Resource Management Act meant that only trees specifically listed in a schedule of the District Plan could be protected.
A process was undertaken to identify those trees which added to the amenity of the district and these were added to the schedule of outstanding or significant natural features and trees and other protected items. This plan change aimed to give confidence to whether or not a resource consent would be needed to remove a tree and to remove any unnecessary restrictions. The plan change allows notable trees to be removed as a permitted activity if they were dead, dying or terminally damaged.
This has had an effect on the number of consents granted and trees removed over the past five years. The number of trees removed as a result of being considered a permitted activity has not been monitored; however, at least some trees have been removed each year under this provision.
In 2010/11 there was an application for the removal of 19 scheduled trees within a woodlot adjacent to the Morrinsville Stream, to allow for construction of a wastewater treatment plant. The trees were seen as being significant because they were part of the woodlot, not as individual trees, and replanting with 38 trees was seen as an effective mitigation measure. Resource consents were granted in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 to remove single protected trees. No resource consents were granted in 2011/12, 2012/13, or since 2015/16 to remove protected trees. However, as referred to above, protected trees may have been removed as a permitted activity if considered by an approved arborist to be dead, dying or terminally damaged. However, as referred to above, protected trees may have been removed as a permitted activity if considered by an approved arborist to be dead, dying or terminally damaged.
Two consent notices required the protection of notable trees in 2012/13. There have been no similar consent notices in the years since.
In 2014/15, Plan Change 48 – Protected Trees commenced, which reviewed the rules and provisions relating to protected trees, as well as Schedule 3 in the District Plan, which lists all protected trees in our District.
All currently protected trees were examined by an arborist, using the Standard Tree Evaluation Method to assess and score them. Council nominated a STEM threshold score of 140 that all trees included in Schedule 3 must meet and then held a public formal submission process in 2015/16.
As a consequence of Plan Change 48, which became operative in 2016/17, 97 individual or groups of trees achieve the threshold of 140 and have been protected by Schedule 3A the District Plan. 129 trees or groups of trees were removed from the schedule and are longer protected by the District Plan. A further 46 items, including stands of trees and remnants of bush, were transferred to schedule 3B: “Outstanding or Significant natural features and other protected items”.
Council will maintain a record of location, by ward, of protected trees that are removed annually. None were removed in either the 2016/17 or 2017/18 years.
Council receives many complaints concerning amenity values. The majority of complaints are about noise, mainly loud music. There was a large increase in the number of complaints between 2008/09 and 2011/12 and a moderate increase in 2016/17. In 2017/18, the number of complaints dropped to its lowest rate in seven years. The reduction was mainly due to a reduction in the number of noise complaints. Other noise complaints were about machinery or tools, motorbike and car noise, or noise early in the morning. It is these complaints, which are few in number, that are more likely to affect people’s perception of the amenity of the district.