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Developing land in sensitive landscapes

In New Zealand we are very lucky to have many beautiful and iconic landscapes. Some are important on a national scale, while others are important regionally or locally. Some of these landscapes are protected from development, and in others sensitive development is allowed.

How do I know if my sites affected?

You can find out if your property is located within an important landscape by looking at the district or regional plan maps. These landscapes are generally shown by an overlay or other plan notation. There are rules relating to development in these landscape overlays, with the aim of protecting the values that make these landscapes important. The rules are part of a hierarchy of protection, leading right up to legislation that refers to protecting outstanding landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. This means that protecting landscape values is not a cursory “side issue” but something which should be central to your development plans for the site and be part of your thinking from the start.

What should I think about?

If your site is in a sensitive landscape, things to consider include:

  • Type of activity; Is the activity you propose appropriate in this landscape? Would it be better somewhere else? For example a large industrial activity is unlikely to gain resource consent in a high value landscape.

  • Location of activity; Is the location on the site appropriate? Will it dominate the landscape? Is it located on a ridgeline or other visually obtrusive location? Is there a better location elsewhere on the site? Make sure you also consider where the access and parking areas will be, and also any tanks or other service areas.

  • Design of the building; Have you designed the building to reduce impacts on the landscape? Remember these are sensitive sites, and buildings should be designed to “sit” into the landscape rather than dominate it. Buildings should generally be smaller, of a lower height, and designed in a way that respects the landform. This could include wide eaves and gentle roof pitches that reflect site contours.

These sites are ones where you need to carefully pick an architect- these sites require careful thought and skill, and consideration of the individual sites and its specific characteristics. A standard house design type approach is not recommended on these sites.

  • Earthworks; How much landform modification do you need to do and what will this look like when you’re finished? How much will this change the landscape and how much of this will be visible? Landform modification should be minimised and reflect the landform.

  • Vegetation removal and alteration to other natural features; Remember that these form a central part of the landscape and its natural character. Any alteration to vegetation, watercourses or similar should be kept to a minimum and avoided if at all possible.

  • Materials; Are you using materials that respect the landscape values? Are they reflective, brightly coloured? For more information on colours, we have a blog coming out in a few weeks that will deal with this issue in more detail.

  • Landscaping; What landscaping do you propose? Will this help to make the building/ development appear part of the landscape or reduce its visibility? Think about what’s already present in the area- your planting should reinforce the native vegetation that’s already present, and not try to introduce formal gardens or exotic plantings that are at odds with what’s already present in the landscape.

Depending on the scale of your proposal and the importance of the landscape, development in these areas may require the assistance of a Landscape Architect. We have contacts in this specialist area and can manage this for you.

Resource consent?

In these areas it is highly likely that development will require resource consent. It is important to do your homework early on the landscape values attached to the land, fully understand it and plan your development with these in the forefront of your mind. A poorly designed development is not likely to gain resource consent in these areas.

If you have questions on development in this zone, please get in contact with our friendly team. We have been lucky enough to work on many sites in the past located in sensitive landscapes, including giving expert evidence in the Environment Court, and would love to use our knowledge to make your development easier from the start.

Hannah Thomson is a Director of Planning Plus and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

email Hannah

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.

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