Plan now before you loose them
Managing a family landholding for the benefit of future generations can be a challenge, but taking opportunities along the way can create significant flexibility.
Over the years Council rules have allowed subdivision of land to a certain extent, whether it be for smaller farms or lifestyle living. This has led to the creation of the building blocks of our economy, allowing farmers to gradually expand by purchasing additional blocks nearby. That approach is changing rapidly and more and more Councils are taking away those opportunities. So it is very important to take the opportunities as they present themselves.
There has been a huge shift towards directing lifestyle living into enclaves in the villages or on the outskirts of towns. Typically here, very small blocks more residential in nature are created – too small for some. At the same time other rural subdivision is being eliminated completely or limited to very large blocks.
Although arguably protecting quality land for future generations and avoiding complaints from townies living in the country, this can make it extremely difficult to provide a separate title for the younger or older generation that wants to be on the land. It also stifles the ability to diversify into a new business that requires a smaller property.
In recent times we have seen Waikato District drastically reduce the ability to create smaller blocks by limiting those subdividable to the ones over 20ha. I fully expect them to lift this to over 40ha when they re-write the rules shortly.
In a surprise move, following submissions and Council hearings, Thames-Coromandel District Council announced that their minimum size for rural subdivision was to now be 20ha – there was no real minimum size previously with subdivisions just requiring a minimum average size of 20ha. This is a huge change that was not proposed originally and was not even requested in a submission. It will now be argued out in the Environment Court.
Opportunity still exists in Matamata-Piako, South Waikato and regions further south, but elsewhere the rules are very tight unless you can protect environmental features or adjust existing boundaries. Hauraki have established a zone on the lower productivity hill country to allow lifestyle blocks but set a minimum lots area of 40ha on the plains. Western Bay allow 6ha horticultural blocks but have also established a zone to accommodate the lifestylers.
I don't see this trend being reversed in the future, short of an uprising by landowners. So my advice to everyone is to consider your options and plan for the future now. Otherwise, if your circumstances change and you want a smaller farm or some flexibility with your titles, you will be forced to sell up and move. 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 Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Coromandel. For further information call 0800 268 632 or email firstname.lastname@example.org