Waikato (April 2012)

New subdivision rules have little weight

Last month I wrote that it was business as usual for those wanting to subdivide in the Waikato District.  This has raised significant interest from some who have seemingly received contrary advice from Council Planners.  I admit, it is not that clear cut and is still subject to legal argument.

My comments were based upon recent experience of how other Councils and planners have interpreted the latest Resource Management legislation.  Rules that are still the subject of submissions and appeals to the Environment Court cannot have the same status as those that have been through the full public process.

When new rules are announced they have very little, if any, weight at all.  An exception to this is rules that protect air, soil, water, flora and fauna; or relate to historic features or aquaculture.  These rules have immediate effect as soon as the changes are publicly notified. 

Therefore, because all the proposed changes to the rural subdivision rules have been appealed you can argue that the proposed rules have little weight, because they are still going through the public process.  The question is 'how much weight do they have?'  Unfortunately different Councils have varying attitudes so we just have to work through it case by case.

Hauraki District Council is also going through this process and is currently making decisions on submissions.  They have advised that currently little weight can be given to the rules that are subject to submissions and are approving subdivisions under the old rules.  Following their deliberations on submissions, the rules will be adopted only if there are no appeals lodged.  Whilst under appeal Council have indicated that “there is an argument that little weight can be given to the Proposed Plan provisions”.

Once appeals are lodged with the Environment Court there is a lengthy process before the issue is resolved so we will have to work through each application on its merits, making a professional judgement as to how each scenario complies with both sets of rules and which set has the most weight at the time. 

If you have considered subdivision in the past you may like to seek another opinion now before the proposed changes are bedded in too much.  I am betting that the proposed rule changes throughout the region have the potential to be very restrictive, considering Environment Waikato has a predisposition to all rural properties being over 40ha and will be pushing that point in hearings.  

Other districts including Matamata Piako, Waipa and Thames Coromandel are all reviewing rules following Western Bay of Plenty earlier and, short of local body reorganisation, the outlook is not looking good.  If you are interested in finding out how the changes may affect you, feel free to give me a call. 

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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