Waikato drafting new District Plan rules
Waikato District Council is well into the pre-notification stage of its District Plan Review. As a result of the amalgamation of the Waikato District and the southern portion of the former Franklin District in 2010, the operative District Plan currently consists of the Waikato Section and the Franklin Section. This confusing situation is intended to be remedied with a single new document.
Last year Council held a number of workshops and open days to discuss issues including rural subdivision and environmental protection. Many people sought more flexibility in rural land use and subdivision rules. The current stage has concluded with the presentation of discussion papers on all the issues to Waikato District Councillors at workshops over recent months.
As usual, the only thing that is certain is that there will be change in the subdivision rules under the new Plan. Yes, as requested by the public, it would be great to see some flexibility around subdividing land for both rural productive use and lifestyle blocks on less productive land. Currently the minimum area is 40 hectares in 'Franklin' and there is no rule for general rural subdivision in the 'Waikato' part.
Currently, in the original Waikato area, an application is allowed for a single lifestyle block to be subdivided off 'older titles' that are over twenty hectares in size. This 'parent block' size was increased significantly in the recent review and is likely to increase significantly again – nothing more certain in my opinion.
In both plans, there is an allowance for subdividing blocks where significant ecological features are protected so it would be great to see that rationalised across the district to enable the protection of these sensitive areas – a win win for landowners and the public.
Many people believe that the old Franklin area subdivision rule that relies upon the transfer of a title from another rural property will not survive this round. Currently an owner who protects an ecological feature or owns several adjoining titles can transfer (at a price) the subdivision potential to somebody else in the district who qualifies – Waikato have resisted this idea in the past.
Many people hope that subdivision will free up with this new plan, however I don't agree. Waikato Regional Council have been pushing for larger blocks for some time and have specifically requested a minimum of forty hectares in the past so my advice to those who need to subdivide for some reason is to utilise the current rules in your particular area and don't hold out hope that things are going to get easier. They won't.
The new rules will come around fast now but you will have an opportunity to make submissions to them. It is an increasingly complex process but worth being involved in if you stand to be disadvantaged under the new rules. However, taking action now is by far the best approach.
If you are interested to find out what opportunities for your land might potentially be lost, feel free to give me a call and discuss your situation without delay.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org