Surveying Services - The Degree of Difference

New Subdivision Rules to affect Social Wellbeing on the Plains

Published October 2011

The Resource Management Act talks about maintaining the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of the community. Personally, I think the Proposed District Plan may be paying too little attention to the 'social wellbeing'. It proposes to stop rural lifestyle subdivision and limit additional houses on the Plains. Without implementing other rules, I believe this will be too tough on residents.

Council's proposal removes the ability to subdivide a small block from your property except in very special circumstances. Residents have long used this rule to create a retirement block, separate a block for family or in some cases sell to release some development capital and enable someone in the community to occupy a small farm or lifestyle block. This progress is obviously seen as 'bad' by planners at a regional level as they press the local councils into retaining big blocks only.

This month Hauraki start hearings on these changes to their District Plan. Under the changes you will need 80 hectares before you can subdivide and the resultant lots must be a minimum of 40 hectares. They are also proposing to stop the subdivision around an existing surplus house. With the average size of a dairy unit increasing these existing surplus houses will have to remain on the farm and be rented, forcing those farm workers that want their independence into town. This will further fragment rural communities already struggling to maintain numbers and a social fabric.

Granted, nobody wants to see the quality rural land cut into lifestyle blocks but Council is the first to admit that they haven't seen 'out of control' subdivision on the Plains - there is just not the growth pressure being experienced in other areas. I have some very astute clients that are moving to obtain approvals prior to the changes taking effect and you can't blame them - there will be change!

In my experience throughout the Waikato and Bay of Plenty you see people responding to rumour and actual rule changes alike. They don't necessarily want to sell any land but they see their rights being taken away and hence they are moved to act. If there was no proposed change it would be business as usual with all subdivision being driven by reality and only undertaken when needed.

The proposed changes will make all subdivisions that don't comply with the new rules 'non-complying' which means that they may not be impossible, but they will be much more expensive to obtain if at all possible. They will need to be publically notified or, at the very least, require approval of adjoining owners and other affected parties. This is likely to include NZ Transport Authority and Environment Waikato who have bottomless pockets to object. The result will be that it will add a huge layer of costs between you and your often sensible goal.

It seems that only a small number of residents have noted the significance of this change, therefore I am likely to be the one to break it to many in the future when they approach us to carry out subdivision of their land. We have submissions before Council and will be speaking to the committee. Should you wish to be more informed on what rules are being formulated to control your land or want to take some action ahead of the changes then feel free to contact me for a chat.

By Brent Trail Managing Director

Brent Trail, Managing Director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. For further information call 07 578 2500 or email

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