Important new changes affecting rural land’s subdivision potential and landholding status

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has just released a National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HL) that seeks to direct new housing developments away from highly productive land, where this is possible.

Even though the NPS has just been released, it takes legal effect and impacts potential subdivision activities and resource consent applications from 17 October 2022. There are definitely some “warning signs” with this NPS, with quick drafting leaving implementation unclear.

The NPS-HL directs councils to map and identify all areas of General Rural or Rural Production land that contains Land Use Capability (LUC) 1, 2 or 3 soils. As a result, some subdivision activities on highly productive land will become prohibited, and others will need to satisfy specified criteria before they can be granted resource consent.

To provide a balanced opinion on this matter we note, “The NPS poses a planning conundrum for many farmers, horticulturalists and communities” says Landpro’s CEO Jason Harvey-Wills, “On one hand the need to protect high quality soils for food and fibre is very important and will provide a level of protection sought for a number of our clients. On the other hand, a lot of the soils around the outskirts of current towns and cities fall within LUC 1, 2, or 3, so this NPS also potentially removes the “option” of future development for those owners.”

Many farmers currently ‘subdivide’ to provide for family accommodation, extended worker accommodation or to retain the option for owners diversifying a portion of their land. Others may be holding onto subdivision land as part of their retirement options. As Walt Denley, Landpro’s South Island based Planning Manager, explains “the key message for people is that if your property has LUC 1, 2 or 3 soils then that is now relevant, and you will need to have a solid argument of why any subdivision is still appropriate on the land”.

If this applies to you, you must take action before 17 October 2022, after which your property classification will be assessed under the terms of the new NPS.

Councils are already trying to juggle the requirements and timeframes coming from Central Government under the NPS-Freshwater Management 2020, the NPS Urban Development, and now the NPS for Highly Productive Soils, and soon the NPS Indigenous Biodiversity. This is becoming quite a complex and resource intensive space.

For our valued current and future clients, “we wanted to make sure you’re aware of these changes” says Helen Duncan, Landpro’s North Island based Planning Manager, “especially if you are sitting on a potential controlled activity subdivision, for example in Stratford, South Taranaki, Otago or Southland, before the Councils are forced into Plan changes”.

Landpro Executive Director Kath Hooper explains “people who disagree with their land classification (and/or who have development aspirations for it) also need to be aware that the maps will be locked in by the regional planning process, and that’s their only chance to have a say on the classification of their property. It is critical that they stay informed and involved throughout these future planning processes.”

We encourage our clients and potential clients to contact us for more information in this space. You can find more information in this article from Anderson Lloyd Lawyers.