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Rural subdivision and planting

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.


This is the fourth blog in our series on rural subdivision in Auckland. You can find the others here- we’ll be loading a new blog each week so keep an eye out for more.


Is subdivision in rural zones allowed?


In Auckland, subdivision in rural zones is limited and restricted to specific circumstances typically where high-quality 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. You can find out more about other rural subdivision pathways in the Auckland Unitary Plan in our blogs here.


What is a revegetation planting subdivision?


This subdivision pathway relates to undertaking native revegetation planting on your site, where it connects to an existing natural feature of significant quality. The intention of these Auckland Unitary Plan rules is that an existing high- quality ecological feature on the site and its overall ecological value is enhanced by the planting of native species directly adjacent to it/ around it.



What are the prerequisites?


The main issue with this subdivision pathway is that the planting must be contiguous (with no gaps) with existing indigenous vegetation or wetland identified in the Significant Ecological Area (“SEA”) Overlay of the Auckland Unitary Plan or a natural feature that meets the SEA factors identified in Policy B7.2.2(1) of the Auckland Unitary Plan (i.e., it must be of the same high quality as an SEA area). This means that you can’t simply plant out an area of any site; the planting must be contiguous with a high value natural feature 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(ONL) 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 in a rural environment, we would recommend engaging a planner with experience in the rural environment and with rural subdivision. Not considering all issues unique to rural development from the start can cost you time and money later in the process.

How much planting is needed?


A minimum of five hectares of native revegetation planting is required for every new rural- residential site created. The Auckland Unitary Plan provisions state that this excludes any vegetation already existing on the site- five hectares of new planting is required to meet the Unitary Plan Standards. 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).




You should not undertake the planting until you have Council approval. While planting in advance of making a resource consent application may be tempting, there are significant risks with this. The plants and the physical planting are expensive doing this work before you have Council approval introduces unnecessary risk, as it increases your costs if the council seeks a different plant mix, density or seeks that some of the planting be relocated. If this creates logistical or timing issues for your specific project, discuss what options are available with your experienced planner.


Plans

The design of the revegetation planting should be undertaken by a suitably qualified and experienced person, typically an ecologist. The Auckland 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. These plans are submitted as part of your resource consent application.


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 ecologically appropriate and must provide the outcomes sought by the Unitary Plan; if not you run the risk of the planting dying and/ or your resource consent being declined. As your resource consent conditions will require a specific success rate and canopy closure, plants dying or not thriving 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.



Source: Landcare Research

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 (and natural features). 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?

  • Access- Where will the crossing for the new lot be located?

  • 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 they take into account the features of the site.

  • Is an esplanade reserve required to be vested?

  • 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, opportunities, what specialists’ inputs are needed, manage these inputs and liaise with the Council on your behalf. Given the unique factors affecting rural land, you should use specialists who are experienced in rural development.

In addition to your planner, you may also need assessment and inputs from:

· Surveyor,

· Geotechnical engineer,

· Civil engineer,

· Ecologist.


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. With 60+ combined years in the industry including over 35 combined years processing resource consent applications for Council’s, we have built up an extensive network of other high-quality professionals. We can provide end to end service, recommending the professionals who best fit you and your rural project. You aren’t stuck with the in- house person who may have no experience or understanding of rural development, and may not understand the issues and opportunities present.


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 over 20 years and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to advice you on your options. Contact us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or (09) 427 9966.



Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plusand has over 23 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.


Disclaimer

Please remember that the advice in this blog is general in nature and based on information and advice available at the time of writing. We recommend you get your own planning advice. As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.


© Planning Plus Ltd 2023


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