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Buying to land bank- what should you look at?

In last week’s blog, we outlined some pointers for things to look out for when buying land for development. Buying land to hold and develop in the future can be a little different in planning terms; we take a look at some of the additional planning issues to consider in this week’s blog.

Location of buildings

Consider the location of buildings that have value, and you’d want to keep, primarily any existing dwellings. If the dwelling is located in the centre of the site, this can make future development more difficult. Is there enough land elsewhere on the site to develop that’s in accordance with district plan requirements and what you want to achieve? For example, on paper the site overall may be large enough that you could meet minimum site size thresholds for subdivision, but due to the central location of a dwelling you can’t practically create a new site that meets this.

Can you get access past the dwelling to the rear? We often see cases where an existing dwelling has been built across a site, with a garage at the front. Sometimes there isn’t enough space to get a driveway past the existing dwelling. In these cases, you may be able to move the dwelling to create space for an access- is this a feasible option in your case though, considering both the space available and the cost?

Overall, it could be that you’ll get better returns from removing the existing dwelling in the future and developing the site as a whole, afresh.

Service lines and capacity

Try and locate public service lines on the site; you can often find these using the Council’s GIS. In many cases service lines are located along front or rear boundaries, but in some cases they can cross through a site. This places some degree of restriction on what can occur in that area, such as foundation types, earthworks etc, and in some cases you wont get Council (or Watercare, if you’re in Auckland) approval to build over these.

Also consider capacity. Is the public system at or near its capacity? Are there any plans to upgrade it? There are many cases of land being zoned for development but not having sufficient servicing in place. This creates real difficulty at the development stage and can create significant time delays and additional costs. In this case, a civil engineer can investigate capacity availability for you.


If your site doesn’t have direct road frontage and shares access with another site (such as via a right of way easement or a jointly owned access lot), also consider development of the other sites that share the road frontage. Can they be developed? District Plans usual contain width thresholds, for example single lane width access may be sufficient for up to 10 dwellings. After that number and the width may need to be increased; could development of your neighbours before you mean you have to upgrade access? Would the width of the access limit development of the sites that use it?


In addition to zoning, which we talked about in last week’s blog, also be aware of designations not only on your site but those nearby. A designation relates to a site or work that a requiring authority proposes and this can be a large scale, such a school, wastewater treatment plant, prison or a new road. Part of your site may be affected by a designation, such as for road widening, which essentially means you can’t do anything on that land that may impact on the designations purpose. Consultation with the requiring authority is recommended.

A designation nearby may impact on the attractiveness of your land when you develop in the future; while everyone wants certain services and facilities there is still a lot of Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY) which can affect your bottom lines for future development.

Future Development

Surrounding development can also make your site more attractive to future owners or tenants. Are any new schools planned, shopping areas or business parks where people can find goods, services and potentially be employed? Are new public transport routes or options proposed? An area that may seem more remote and poorly serviced may not be that way in 10 years.

Useful places to find this information include:

  • A Structure Plan for the area (commonly for Future Urban Zoned land, or land that has recently been rezoned, as structure plans are a precursor to rezoning),

  • Planning maps of the District Plan in terms of designations,

  • Auckland Transport list of projects or 10- year plan,

  • Auckland Council’s list of projects or 10- year plan,

  • Via local board website pages or contacts.

Also have a look at surrounding land; are there any large sites that may be developed? Future urban zoned land that may be developed? Will this affect your future plans?

Got a development in mind?

If you need more land development advice or would like to discuss a feasibility report, please get in contact. You can contact us on

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

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