Mon, Feb 7, 2022 8:00 AM

Subdividing rural land in your district



By Anna Bensemann
Baseline Group Marlborough senior planner

For almost as long as there has been land ownership in New Zealand there has been the ability to subdivide land to create smaller parcels and increase the number of properties able to be bought and sold.

One fundamental shift in the process of subdivision is the management of rural land parcels through planning process to protect the integrity of the rural zone.

Development pressures on land to create lifestyle blocks have fragmented our most fertile rural land. This creates pressure on local authorities to limit the ability of land to be developed to protect a food resource and the economic viability of the land.

Prior to the Resource Management Act (RMA), historical planning controls required applicants to demonstrate smaller land parcels had an economic value and would therefore remain productive. Subdivision was often achieved with good intentions of small scale farming activities however, once subdivided, was often never fully utilised for the economic use outlined in the planning applications.

A shift in thinking under the RMA was to ensure minimum allotment sizes restricted the ease which land could be developed and placed greater emphasis on demonstrating land could sustain a dwelling for water supply and wastewater, protect freshwater or coastal marine values, and would not lead to a cumulative fragmentation effects (loss of productivity etc) on the rural land resource.

These minimum allotment sizes are the smallest land parcel for which councils must grant subdivision resource consents. They allow for certainty of the likely scale of development in the rural zone. The use of the minimum allotment size rule can be described as a blunt tool as it does not consider the unique features of each site.

Each local authority decides the minimum allotment size for their area, and these can vary significantly between different councils. For example, in Tasman there are two rural zones which allow for the subdivision of allotments to either 50 ha or 12 ha. In Marlborough, the minimums are 20 ha or 8 ha, and in Nelson the minimums are 15 ha or 3 ha. Naturally, smaller allotments tend to be allowed closer to the main centres allowing for greater densities close to markets and transport hubs.

In contrast the rural zones in Grey District have a 1 ha minimum, in Westland District 0.5 ha as a discretionary activity (not as of right) and in Buller District there is no minimum at all with allotments determined by the market.

Every subdivision of land, including boundary adjustments, requires a subdivision resource consent. While minimum allotment sizes are in place to ensure the integrity of the rural zone, there are circumstances where subdividing to smaller than the minimum allotment size can be achieved. Minimum allotment sizes can vary with little consideration of the environment of the subdivision. A planning consultant can guide you through these circumstances to allow you to make the most of your subdivision.

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