Subdivision Brings Environmental Gains (July 2019)

Whilst there is a lot of angst building in the community about subdividing good productive land on the borders of our biggest city, all rural land is not so productive. There are significant pockets of land either already occupied in a residential way or relatively unproductive that can provide a productive lifestyle for many. At the same time, many farmers are retiring marginal land and pouring their profits into native revegetation along streams and wetland areas to increase water quality. The combination can produce a win win.

Many councils are acknowledging this by providing development opportunities in return for locking up this planted land for future generations. This recognises the long-term environmental benefits to the community, whilst providing some potential income to reimburse the landowner’s costs.

Farmers have always seen themselves as custodians of the land and looked after it well, without a lot of recognition. As always, policy development is a slow process but over the years many councils have put in place policy that encourages the protection of ecological and historic features as a major precursor to subdivision. Some of the most popular features are regenerating native bush, wetland ecosystems, cultural sites and bush covered stream and riverbanks. Some councils even allow for protection of prime view shafts, and historical buildings. Unfortunately, the rules differ from district to district with some councils being more generous than others.

With many rural councils restricting the subdivision of lifestyle blocks through other rules, this may be the only way available for many to create truly 'rural' lifestyle lots for sale or retirement.

Western Bay, Waikato, Thames-Coromandel, 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 stipulate different areas to be set aside. Western Bay District has been a leader, allowing subdivision of an additional lot by protecting a wetland area as small as half a hectare. They also allow a subdivision if you protect 500 metres of stream bank by reserving a native planting 20 metres in width. Established forest or regenerating scrubland also qualifies, with various size limits of several hectares, as in other districts.

It is great to see all councils recognising the public benefit of retaining these environmentally significant features. In doing so they are 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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