Sting in policy for rural subdivision (October 2022)

In recent weeks the Government has released the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS HPL). This is about ensuring the availability of New Zealand’s most favourable soils for food and fibre production, now and for future generations. The policy instructs local councils on how to manage the subdivision and land use of this highly productive land resource.

Having witnessed the apparent sprawling of our cities onto productive land, I see it as an admirable policy.  Whether this policy will halt that specific development is highly questionable.  The policy will not necessarily limit this sprawl.  It simply requires that, in rezoning land, councils must look at alternatives, such as allowing higher-density residential development within its existing urban boundary or rezoning land that has a lower productive capacity than any other land that may be considered. Practically cities will continue to sprawl, I believe.

With subdivision on general rural land, apart from the usual exclusions for defence facilities and Maori land subdivision, councils must avoid, if possible, the cumulative loss of productive land as well as any reverse sensitivity effects on land-based activities.  This would include potential complaints from residential people suffering from things such as noise and odours in the countryside.

There are many different classes of land across New Zealand that are determined based on fertility, contour, drainage and climate.  Classes 1 to 4 are considered suitable for multiple land uses including cropping, while classes 5 to 7 are only suitable for pastoral grazing and forestry. Class 8 is not suitable for any productive use. The NPS HPL deals specifically with Class 1 to Class 3 soils but will catch others.

As a result of this new legislation regional and local councils are required to take a strategic and long-term view in managing the effect of subdivision.  They are required to map land that is of Class 1 to 3 as highly productive land. And they are allowed to map boundaries of large and geographically cohesive areas.  Herein lies the sting – small, discrete areas of lower-class soils that lie within this cohesive area may be included with the highly productive land. So, local councils may outlaw subdivisions on some areas of low-quality soils as a result of this policy.

This is yet another reason to not delay subdivision if it is on your radar over the coming years.  This is just another layer of red tape that, if it doesn’t make it impossible, will make it much more difficult and costly. There is no better time than now to get your plans underway, so talk to a specialist subdivision company and start the ball rolling, as it can take many months to gain approval from council.

If you are contemplating subdividing your land, please feel free to give us a call to discuss how this evolving situation might affect your plans.

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