New Waikato subdivision rules shock many (January 2022)

To anyone monitoring ongoing district plan revisions, the outcome of the Waikato District Council subdivision rule review could be seen coming. From what was originally notified, the change is extraordinary.  If not successfully appealed this could effectively end lifestyle subdivision as we knew it in the Waikato.  However, it does still offer limited opportunities for some landowners, particularly those in the ex-Franklin area.

I found it interesting when the Waikato District Council notified their proposed subdivision rule change back in 2018. Their documents clearly proposed keeping the 20-hectare minimum farm size required to enable a lifestyle block to be cut off. This included the entire General Rural Zone including the ex-Franklin area of the District. This was never going to happen, given that the Regional Council fought hard at the last District Plan Review to force the minimum size toward 40 hectares. They even indicated back then that they would fight harder next time around.

The Hearings Committee has now published its decision following an extended period of deliberations due to the Covid outbreak. These rules are now open to appeal to the Environment Court for 30 days from the date of notification which was made on 17 January 2022.  Anybody that submitted or made a further submission to the rule changes can appeal Council’s ruling. The downside is that the costs are high and you are fighting the establishment with their substantial resources.

So, as predicted, a property in the General Rural Zone will now need to be over 40 hectares in size with a Qualifying Title dated before 6 December 1997 before it can be considered at all for subdivision.  Only one lifestyle section can be cut off which must be between 8000 square metres and 1.6 hectares in size. What’s more, this new section can have no more than 15 per cent of its area in high-class soil.  This is going to seriously restrict the number of properties that qualify for subdivision.  This 15% rule also puts paid to many relocations of existing titles on any property of reasonable contour with fertile soils which were possible in the past.                                                                                                                            

The proposed rules also contain provisions for limited scope boundary adjustments and relocation of existing titles within the bounds of an existing farm. However, Council appears to have deleted the provision allowing subdivision of up to three new lots when a qualifying ecological feature (such as bush or wetland) is permanently protected. This is most unusual, given that most district councils allow such activity.

With complex rules like this adding to the requirements to have a safe house site with good access to the road as well as meeting other servicing requirements, you must talk to a specialist subdivision company if you have any desire to subdivide your property. We are always open to a chat about the potential effects these changes might have on your property development plans, so feel free to give us a call right away. 

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