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Natural Features and Landscapes

Napier is characterised by distinctive urban and natural landscapes that bring the city’s unique history to life.

Read the full technical report  Download this discussion document 

Napier’s distinctive urban and natural landscapes reflect our city’s history and contribute to our sense of place and identity. Māori narratives also tell us that our landscapes hold great significance to mana whenua. 

Described by a landscape expert as “a negotiation between land and sea”, Napier’s landscapes incorporate the history of our rivers and streams, the sentinel presence of Mataruahou (Napier Hill), the reflective qualities of the Ahuriri Estuary and the scale of Hawke Bay.  Landscapes also encompass the ordered orchards, vineyards and poplar lined stop banks of our rural areas, the expansiveness of the former lagoon seabed and the western hills, which provide a backdrop to the city. 

As our current District Plan doesn’t include any outstanding, special character or special amenity landscapes, it’s important we identify notable landscapes correctly.

View maps of landscape areas here 

We asked landscape experts, in consultation with mana whenua, to provide Council with an initial understanding of the location and extent of our special landscapes. Their report identified the following key landscapes for inclusion:

  • Ōtātara Pa – an outstanding natural feature;
  • Pukekura (Sugar Loaf) and Heipipi-Esk Hills - special character features;
  • Te Whanganui-ā-Orotū - a special character landscape, encompassing the former lagoon seabed, nine individual special character features and the immediate surrounding hills of Poraiti;
  • The Taradale Hills - a special amenity landscape.


The Resource Management Act stipulates that we must protect outstanding natural features from things like inappropriate subdivision, use and development. Landscapes of special character or amenity values (primarily visual features) are also required to have some protection in the District Plan.

Inappropriate earthworks, subdivisions and poorly designed buildings can negatively impact on landscapes, which is why they need to be carefully managed.

Moving forward

  • As part of the District Plan review, Council commissioned a nationally recognised firm, Isthmus Group, to carry out a landscape assessment of Napier.  They identified a number of landscapes of varying degrees of importance. 
  • Mapping of these areas can be viewed here: Landscapes 
  • The District Plan will map areas identified in the report and provide a description of their characteristics and values.
  • Ōtātara Pa was assessed as an ‘outstanding natural feature’. A rule framework will need to be introduced that protects Ōtātara from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. 
  • A lesser degree of regulation is required for areas identified as ‘special amenity’ and ‘special character’.  Examples of these classifications include the western hills behind Taradale, and high visibility areas of Poraiti.  However, these landscapes still need to be managed.  We may introduce building height limits, the use of recessive building materials and colours, and landscaping requirements for houses built on visible faces and spurs in these areas.


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An outstanding natural landscape or feature is the most significant in a district. To be considered outstanding it must be a natural landscape, although other values may result in the landscape being considered ‘outstanding’.

Special character or amenity landscapes are those landscapes which offer visual amenity at a district or regional level, or which may be outstanding but insufficiently natural. Under section 7 of the RMA ‘particular regard’ is to be applied to such landscapes.

Regulation must be clearly tailored to the particular landscape characteristics to be managed.

The first step in the process is defining values, assigning rankings and prioritising management. This assessment is usually undertaken by trained practitioners exercising professional judgement. The detailed evaluation undertaken followed well recognised landscape criteria that encompasses the following attributes:

  • Physical (the collective natural and physical resources of an area – including physical elements and processes); and
  • Perceptual (how we see and experience the physical environment); and
  • Associative (the meaning and memories we associate with a place)

We are now at the second stage in the process where we capture the views and opinions of the local community.

In most cases it is ‘business as usual’.  It is only when you wish to undertake further development on your site that you will be required to consider how the development fits best within the landscape.  Building activities that need more careful management include building heights, the external appearance of buildings and earthworks.

The report identifies Napier’s unique urban and natural landscapes.  The urban landscapes will generally be managed through precincts and zones in a way that integrates landscape with architectural, historical and cultural heritage. 

We have mapped the natural landscapes whose values are at significant risk from further development.  These have been identified as:

  • Ōtātara Pa
  • Te Whanganui-ā-Orotū, including parts of Poraiti on the eastern facing slopes
  • Taradale Hills
  • Pukekura (Sugar Loaf)

If your property has been identified as being within an outstanding natural feature, special character or special amenity landscape, there will be some additional matters that may need to be addressed if you wish to undertake further development on your site. Activities that can be managed more closely to protect identified special values include building heights, the external appearance of buildings and earthworks.  Typically resource consent may be required in relation to these types of activities.

We are at the stage of the process where we are seeking landowner and public opinion on the areas identified in the Landscape report and the appropriate response to protect these areas in the District Plan.  We welcome your feedback as we prepare this section of the Draft District Plan.

We are working with the community to create a planning framework that allows people to be able to undertake reasonable use, maintenance and improvements to land containing special landscapes and features, while also ensuring the protection of the special values.

Council will be releasing a draft District Plan end of May 2021. This will contain a chapter on Natural Features and Landscapes. The contents of this chapter will be formulated following feedback received from this pre engagement consultation. 

We welcome any suggestions as to how Landscapes and special features should be managed through the District Plan to ensure the special character of our landscapes are protected.

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