Waikato reviews subdivision rules again
Waikato District has recently begun a review of their district plan rules after only resolving some of the major appeals recently, however there is a good reason. Since Waikato absorbed part of the Franklin District, following formation of the Super City, they have been operating under two sets of rules according to the original district boundaries. That situation is confusing for residents.
Although both district plans have a similar attitude to rural subdivision, the current rules are quite different. Both plans aim to protect the productive soils in the region, allowing only limited subdivision opportunities outside of the settlements.
Currently the original Waikato area allows for lifestyle blocks to be subdivided off older titles that are over twenty hectares in size. There is a limit of one block per title and Council has discretion over certain aspects. This 'parent block' size was increased significantly in the recent review and is likely to increase again, I believe. Other subdivision, apart from boundary adjustments and ecological lots, is restricted to the townships and rural residential zones.
Whilst the old Franklin area rules still support ecological lots this is where the similarity ends. Subdivision is not restricted to twenty hectare lots but available to many rural lots, however it relies upon the transfer of a title from another rural property – you can't subdivide independently unless you have a qualifying ecological feature. Therefore, an owner who protects an ecological feature or owns several adjoining titles can transfer the subdivision potential to somebody else in the district who qualifies. Several constraints exist and you must be careful to purchase a title that meets all the requirements.
Early in the process Waikato have identified that transferable titles have some merit, although I believe that in the past they have resisted any suggestion of them. I would be surprised if they are retained.
I have been approached by many, hoping that subdivision will be freed up with this consolidation of the rules. Although Council have indicated that they have an open mind, I believe that the future has already been signalled in the earlier plan change. In this change the Waikato Regional Council requested a minimum size lot of forty hectares before a lifestyle lot could be subdivided. Council supported this but, following negotiation with appellants, this was reduced to twenty. I believe that Council will propose a move to forty again and probably cement this; in line with other Councils.
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 be advertised from as early as next year and 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 Coromandel, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty. For further information call 0800 268 632 or email firstname.lastname@example.org