Do you own a rural property? Maybe you’re keen to develop the land and make some extra money, or potentially the land is a bit too large for you? If this sounds like you, you might be keen to investigate subdividing your rural site. There are a few different ways you can subdivide sites in the rural zones in Auckland, and in this week’s blog we look at revegetation planting.
Keep an eye out for blogs over the coming weeks that will look at other subdivision types. If you’re looking just to relocate the boundaries between your site and a neighbouring site, have a read over this blog about boundary adjustments.
Is subdivision in rural zones allowed?
In Auckland, subdivision in rural zones is very limited and restricted to specific circumstances typically where high value natural features can be protected or enhanced. This is very different to urban zones, where subdivision is usually based on a specific site size, or a specific land use, and development (up to a certain density) is encouraged.
In this blog we discuss one type of rural subdivision “pathway”- revegetation planting. You would require resource consent for this subdivision type.
What is revegetation planting?
This subdivision pathway relates to undertaking native revegetation planting on your site. The intention of these Unitary Plan rules is that an important ecological feature on the site and its overall ecological is enhanced by the planting of native species.
What are the prerequisites?
The main issue here is that the planting must be contiguous with existing indigenous vegetation or wetland identified in the Significant Ecological Area (“SEA”) Overlay of the Unitary Plan or meeting the SEA factors identified in Policy B7.2.2(1) of the Unitary Plan (i.e., be of the same standard as an SEA area). This means that you can’t plant out any area on any site; the planting must connect to a high value natural area so that the expected ecological outcomes are achieved.
The planting should also:
(a) not be located on land containing elite soil or prime soil;
(b) be located outside any Outstanding Natural Character, High Natural Character or Outstanding Natural Landscape overlays.
In some cases, it may be acceptable to have the revegetation planting partially on higher quality soils or in an ONL etc, but you should discuss these issues with your planner at the subdivision design stage. Given the difference between planning issues in an urban and rural environment, we would recommend engaging a planner with experience in the rural environment and with rural subdivision.
How much planting is needed and what vegetation is required ?
Five hectares of native revegetation planting is required for every new rural- residential site created. The Unitary Plan provisions state that this excludes any vegetation already existing on the site- five hectares of new planting is required. This revegetation is required to be legally and physically protected (usually by a consent notice condition attached to the new Record of Title, and physically protected via stock proof fencing).
The design of this planting should be undertaken by a suitably qualified and experienced person, typically an ecologist. The Unitary Plan sets out what this must include, which is:
pre-planting site assessment;
planting plan assessment;
and annual monitoring programme.
This will detail the sites features and characteristics, the specific species proposed for planting in specific areas and why, density of these and size at the time of planting, timing of planting, maintenance and monitoring. It’s important that you have a specialist assisting you with these plans, as the plants, the specific location where you plant them and how you maintain them must be appropriate; if not you run the risk of the planting dying. As your resource consent conditions will require a specific success rate and canopy closure, plants dying will impact your ability to comply with the consent conditions and as a result when the new titles can issue.
A weed and pest control plan is also required and usually your ecologist will draft this for you. This is referred to in the consent notice conditions, and you/ future owners will be required to implement this on an ongoing basis.
If you’re contemplating a subdivision using the revegetation subdivision pathway you need to be aware of these ongoing requirements; you will have to undertake weed and pest control, maintain fencing and essentially “lock” this area away in perpetuity.
What else do I need to consider?
Once you’ve investigated the above, you can start getting into the more detailed analysis of your site and subdivision. You should consider:
Natural Hazards- Is the site affected by flooding, contain overland flowpaths or unstable land? The building site and access need to be suitable in terms of natural hazards. The placement of services, in particular wastewater areas, are also affected by natural hazards. If your site is affected by natural hazards you need to consider where the best place for the platform and associated access are to ensure you’re creating a site that’s suitable for development. This may require a flood report and/ or a geotechnical report.
Is the building site located in an area that won’t notably impact on the rural character and amenity expected in this zone? Is it located away from ridgelines or other visually prominent locations, and meets zone yard setbacks?
Access- Where will the crossing for the new lot be located? Does this have good sightlines? Is it onto an arterial road? How long does the driveway need to be? Does it cross any watercourses or floodplains? Does this require an additional works/ assessments?
How will the new site be serviced? In rural areas this is typically via individual, on- site means. Are there natural hazards, watercourses and wetlands that you need to take into account? For example, a slope may not be suitable in geotechnical terms for you to discharge stormwater over it. Setbacks from watercourses and wetlands are required for wastewater (and other) discharges, even after treatment. If your identified building platform is developed, can these requirements be met?
Can a building on the identified platform connect to power and are telephone services (wired in or wireless) available?
Think about the boundary locations. Do these split natural features? Does a natural feature split the site in two? Is one boundary so steep, future owners would be unable to fence it? Your boundary locations should take into account the features of the site.
Is an esplanade reserve required to be vested? This can be required in cases where your site contains a watercourse over 3m average width or is adjacent to the coast.
What was the past land uses of the site? Was it a use listed on the Ministry of the Environmental Hazardous Activities and Industries List? Past and present land uses can trigger the need for further investigations, soil sampling, further consents and remediation.
Who needs to be involved?
Usually subdivision of your site, including the resource consent application, will involve a team of specialists and contractors. In terms of the resource consent, usually your planner will manage the process for you. Your planner will help identify potential application and development risks, what specialists’ inputs are needed, manage these inputs and liaise with the Council on your behalf.
In addition to your planner, you will also need assessment and inputs from:
Depending on your site, its characteristics, and the natural features present, you could also require input from:
A wastewater engineer,
A traffic engineer,
A contamination specialist.
Your planner will be able to guide you on what specialist inputs are needed.
Need more advice?
If you have a site in a rural zone that you’re looking to develop, get in contact. Hannah has been working in rural land development for almost 20 years and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to advice you on your options. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or (09) 427 9966.
Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 20 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. 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.
Hannah holds the qualifications of BSc (Environmental Science) and Masters of Applied Science (Environmental Management), is a Member (Int) of the New Zealand Planning Institute and Secretary of the New Zealand Planning Institute Auckland Branch Committee. Hannah is also a member of the Resource Management Law Association.
As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.