Time Runs out for Rural Subdivision (February 2016)

Times changing for rural subdivision

After decades of relatively flexible and simple subdivision rules, times are a- changing.  Until relatively recently most districts have allowed lifestyle blocks to be created throughout without too much fuss.  That has changed significantly and will undoubtedly keep doing so.

Many Councils in this region have now made subdivision creating blocks under 40 hectares in size extremely difficult, particularly in areas of high productivity.  Western Bay District is the only Council in this region that has a rule allowing the subdivision of 6 hectare blocks for horticultural land.

In general, Councils are trying hard to push future lifestylers into rural residential enclaves of self serviced blocks as small as 2,500 square metres.  Some, including Hauraki District, are providing zones where a variety of lifestyle block sizes are encouraged.  These are being established on the foothills where the land is less productive and the chances of interrupting large scale farming are lower.

Lifestyle blocks can still be created in rural areas by way of boundary adjustments or relocation of existing titles, if you have additional titles or are selling the farm to a neighbour.  Existing titles can also be reduced in size in the process.  Many Councils also allow small blocks to be created in return for protection of ecological and cultural features such as bush, stream banks or wetland.  This is seen as a win/win where the environment is being protected for the good of the community and the landowner gets a significant return for their investment.

This environmental protection has led to the latest type of subdivision – that of Transferable Development Rights.  Basically, if a landowner is prepared to register a covenant on their title to protect an ecological feature, Council will sometimes allow them to subdivide and/or sell this ability to someone else in the district.  These subdivisions are popular in most districts, including Thames-Coromandel (TCDC), Waipa, Waikato, Western Bay and the old Franklin District.  However, TCDC do not allow the transfer of these rights and Waikato does not allow transfer except for within that part of the old Franklin District that they administer.

Another type of subdivision that has gained some traction recently is where two existing titles are amalgamated into one, leaving one right that can be sold to create another title somewhere else.  These titles cannot be moved to another district.  There are also restrictions on where they can end up and what type of subdivision they can facilitate.  This type of subdivision is common in the old Franklin District, Waipa and Western Bay. 

If you wish to clarify any subdivision strategies mentioned here please feel free to give me a call.  I am happy to discuss the situation with you to see if it is worth pursuing.

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


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