Property rights eroded under new District Plan - Major changes to TCDC subdivision and building rules appealed to Environment Court
What a difference a month can make. Last month I reported that the Thames Coromandel District Council had announced the decisions version of its new District Plan. This month many of those decisions including virtually all those relating to Rural Subdivision are under appeal to the Environment Court. So perhaps we can still gain approvals under the old rules in the interim – it may be your last chance.
This is important to note because some of the rules have changed significantly, contrary to my observation after a quick read whilst on holiday last month. And what a difference a word can make! In the case of rural subdivision, the word 'average' has been deleted, meaning that rather than there being a minimum average area requirement of 20hectares it is now a minimum lot size of 20ha. This is a change that has huge significance to the retention of rural production land, as it will force all lifestyle blocks to be over 20ha in size and encourage wasted land.
The basis of this rule and other changes is being disputed as, in many cases, it appears that an arbitrary decision has been made that may not relate to a specific request by a submitter or be supported by detailed analysis. Case law implies that this should not happen. Therefore, it will go to Court and TCDC will have to defend its position.
The upshot of this is that, if successful, Council will establish this rule - eliminating any lifestyle blocks under 20ha in size. In the meantime, there may well be an opportunity to carry on using the old rules.
This situation reinforces my advise that one should always use the existing rules rather than rely on proposed changes – even if, as notified, they retain the status quo. There has always been this possibility.
Other appeals to the Court contest Councils extensive application of Outstanding Natural Features and Landscape over vast tracts of their land – even when those features cover significantly 'unnatural' tracts of agricultural land and forestry blocks. Subdivisions utilising the protection of ecological features outside of the priority areas mapped by Council may still be possible, as that rule is also under appeal.
Another hot topic - building a house within the coastal overlay of the rural zone, has become a 'restricted discretionary' activity rather than the proposed 'permitted' activity. This has significant implications in that, whether you own a block or are looking at purchasing, you will not have a 'right' to build a house without first obtaining a Resource Consent from Council. Being a discretionary type application the issue of such consent is not guaranteed, bringing uncertainty to landowners and potentially adding huge cost to the process of building.
You may not have been involved in this process to date but there is still an opportunity to contribute to this process, so if you are affected or want advise on any subdivision matter I am happy to discuss the opportunities with you - don't hesitate to give me a call.
Brent Trail, Managing Director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Coromandel, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty. For further information call 0800 268 632 or email email@example.com