Enviro Lots (December 2017)

Rural subdivision focused on environmental protection

With an increased focus on protecting the environment for future generations, most councils are providing subdivision benefits to those who agree to permanently reserve areas of significant value. 

Although farmers have always seen themselves as custodians of the land and looked after it well, in the past there hasn’t been much recognition of it.  Allowing them subdivision benefits for permanently fencing off and protecting sensitive features provides the recognition and financial reward that they deserve.

It is a slow process but over the years many councils have put in place policy that encourages the protection of native bush, wetland ecosystems and even cultural sites.  Unfortunately the rules differ from district to district so what is accepted in one area may not be accepted in others.

As many rural councils are restricting the number allowed and where lifestyle blocks can be subdivided this may be the only way for some to create truly 'rural' lots for sale or retirement.

Wetland areas, regenerating native bush and bush covered stream and river banks are some of the most popular features with councils.  Some even allow for protection of view shafts, cultural sites and even historical buildings.

Western Bay, Waikato, Thames-Coromandel, Franklin (now partly in Waikato and Hauraki), Waipa, Hauraki, South Waikato, Matamata-Piako, Whakatane and Opotiki District Plans all now recognise the benefits of protecting these features to some extent.  All their rules are similar but have different areas required to be set aside.  For example, in Western Bay, an area as small as half a hectare of wetland can be enough to justify the subdivision of an additional lot.  If you have a waterway running through or bordering your property there is a good chance that you can get a credit for a subdivision – you need 500m of bank on one side with a 20m strip of native vegetation either existing or planted. Established forest or regenerating scrubland also qualifies, with various size limits of several hectares as in other districts.

Surprisingly, there is a trend where some councils are reducing the credits given. Waikato is currently rewriting its rules and is proposing to reduce the benefits available to those reserving larger pieces of native by reducing the maximum number of lot credits to only two when protecting a feature over 5ha in size.  Thames Coromandel recently proposed a regime which required much larger areas of covenant depending on the quality of the feature and this is currently being challenged in the Environment Court.  If you are located in these areas it would pay to see what you can do right now before the opportunity is lost.

It is great to see all councils recognising the public benefit of retaining these environmentally significant features.  In doing so they are giving giving the custodians of the land some financial reward in recognition for their contribution to the sustainability of the country. 

So, if your land has a feature similar to those mentioned in this article and you want to subdivide your property, I am happy to discuss the prospects with you.  Please feel free to give me a call and discuss your situation. 

Brent Trail, Managing Director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Waikato, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.  For further information call 0800 268 632 or email


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