Transferable Subdivision or Development Rights (December 2010)

Transferable subdivision or development rights

This is being implemented by allowing ‘on site’ subdivision and Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) to allow other properties to be subdivided. 

They are also acknowledging the public good by giving development opportunities (by way of TDRs )to those who ‘give’ land for public purposes.  This is the most liberal I have seen from District Councils in this regard.

Change is in the air as Waipa District Council announces consultation with surveyors on its Proposed New District Plan.  It comes as no surprise to those who follow the development of policy.  “Future Proof”, a sub-regional growth study, set the scene for change in the greater Waikato Region.  Councils have adopted the principles in their own growth strategies – such as “Waipa 2050”.  Therefore, we can expect change soon in Waikato and Matamata-Piako as well.  Across the hill in Western Bay significant change is already underway.

We don’t know what rules to expect yet but the signs point to reduced subdivision in the rural zone and a focus on expanding the towns and villages of the District.  “Waipa 2050” states ‘Living opportunities in the rural environment are proposed to be restricted’.  The opportunities for genuine small rural lots in Waipa are already limited, so any further restrictions will mean country living might become hard to find.

Currently the minimum rural lot size is 25ha; however there are other opportunities to subdivide smaller lotsOne rule allows you to subdivide if you’ve had a fifteen year association with the property.  You can also subdivide a surplus house from the property, or create a new lot on an unproductive area of land.  Speculation is that these rules may tighten up or change completely.

Additional ‘protection’ lots can be created when you protect bush, wetland or heritage sites.

An interesting, if rather complex rule is the Transferable Development Rule.  This rule allows you to transfer a ‘development right’ to another property.  This can include an existing title or the right to create a 25ha block or protection lot.  The receiving property can be located in another area of the district altogether and in different ownership; therefore ‘rights’ are tradable.  The growth strategy indicates that there could be greater emphasis on this rule in the new District Plan.

With reasons given such as ‘protecting high quality soils’ and ‘enhancing the rural amenity’ you may find it hard to argue against tightening of the rules.  However, if the rules change significantly, those who want the genuine rural lifestyle may miss out and those who need to sell off a little un-needed land to finance farm development may no longer be able to.

Once the new rules are notified there will be an opportunity for you to have your say.  Our advice is to discuss your plans with a professional land surveying company before the rules are notified.  Beyond notification the process is much more involved and you may well miss out.

Subdivision to be Restricted to Fewer

Subdivision rules in Waipa and Waikato Districts currently allow for the creation of a variety of lot sizes that meet the market for mixed land use, including lifestyle blocks for those that don’t fancy living in town or in denser rural residential developments.

Over the past month both Districts have moved closer to restricting much of this subdivision.  I believe that these changes will push lifestylers further out of town, but surely that shouldn’t be the goal in this day and age.  Councils are proposing to restrict subdivision opportunities to those with bigger blocks only.

As these Councils respond to the pressure from Environment Waikato to peg back subdivision and protect productive land, nothing is more certain than reduced opportunities for most landowners.  How they achieve this is still open to debate as the proposals go out for public comment.  If you have any interest in how your district develops or what you can do with your land then you must take part in this debate.  So watch out for public notification of these District Plan changes and participate.

Waipa planners are considering clamping down on ‘retirement blocks’ by limiting them to those who have occupied a large block (40+ hectares) for over 25 years – currently there is no minimum area and 15 years.  For a normal rural subdivision you will need 80 hectares to qualify for even one new lot if proposed changes go through.  Both these rules must surely push development much further out or make it uneconomic.

Waipa’s proposal for Transferable Development Rights (TDR) through amalgamation is untested.  In this process you are required to amalgamate existing rural titles (often in different ownership) in order to subdivide in a designated area close to an existing settlement or on less productive soils.  This radical idea has not yet been fully implemented anywhere, to my knowledge.

Rodney, Franklin and Western Bay have proposed this over the past ten years; however attempts to implement it have been frustrated by the perceived complexities and unsustainable returns.  Waikato District are monitoring this TDR method but in the meantime they are proposing a change that will more than halve the number of lots that can be created.  This will leave potential for only one lot to be created, and if you own less than 6 hectares to start with you will miss out all together.

With rules like this proposed it’s no wonder I am being approached by many to get Council approval for their subdivisions before it becomes too complex or impossible to achieve.  For further advice on subdivision you should immediately contact a professional surveying company very familiar with these proposals.

Brent Trail, Managing Director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Coromandel.  For further information call 0800 268 632 or email



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theodolite - traditional land surveying equipment
Surveying Services Subdivision Planning Team Vehicle
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