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Rural subdivision- can bush protection work for you?

A rural lifestyle, especially around Auckland, has become increasingly popular. Many people dream of having some land, maybe a horse or pet sheep and extra space for the kids to play around in. The additional income from subdividing and selling a lifestyle block from your farm can be attractive. But how do you do it? Can you do it?

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.

This blog is part of a series, looking at different types of subdivision in Auckland rural zones. You can find the rest of the series here. In this blog we focus on one type of rural subdivision “pathway”- protection of indigenous vegetation (native bush). You would require resource consent for this subdivision type.

What is subdivision based on bush protection?

Rural subdivision using this “pathway” relates to protecting areas of significant indigenous vegetation. The vegetation needs to be of a high quality; either being identified in the Unitary Plan’s Significant Ecological Areas (SEA) Overlay or meeting one or more of the SEA factors identified in Policy B7.2.2(1) of the Unitary Plan. If using the factors in Policy B7.2.2(1) of the Unitary Plan, you will need to demonstrate in a report by a “a suitably qualified and experienced person“ (usually an ecologist) how the native bush meets the criteria. The vegetation must not already be legally protected.

How much bush do I need to protect?

The area of significant bush that you need to protect, depends on if you plan to create the new lifestyle site in- situ (i.e., on the application site) or if you intend to use it as part of a Transferable Rural Site Subdivision (TRSS). You can find out more about the TRSS subdivision option in Countryside Living Zones here.

The Unitary Plan incentivises the TRSS option and requires 2ha of bush protection (up to 9.99ha) to create one TRSS. This TRSS “right” would then be transferred to a site in a Countryside Living zone. If you have more bush on your site, there is a scale in Table E39. of the Auckland Unitary Plan detailing how many additional TRSS you could create. There is no maximum number of TRSS sites that you can create using this rule, as long as you have sufficient high quality indigenous vegetation on your site.

If you wanted to create the new lots in situ, a minimum of 4ha of bush would require protection to create one new site (as opposed to 2ha under the TRSS option). If you had more high-quality bush on the site, you could create additional sites in- situ, as set out in Table E39. of the Auckland Unitary Plan. There is however a maximum of 12 sites allowed using the bush protection pathway, where the sites are created in- situ. This is another important difference to the TRSS option. The new sites should be sized between 1ha and 2ha.

What consent conditions are likely in relation to the bush areas?

The subdivision consent will contain a number of conditions such as those relating to access, power and telephone services and building platforms, but in relation to the bush protection, at a minimum the resource consent would require:

  • Initial weed and pest control in the areas to be protected. Your resource consent application should include a weed and pest control plan, written by your ecologist. This will require an ecological survey of the bush area first, identification of the weed and pest species present, and confirmation of how to manage these on an ongoing basis,

  • Stock proof fencing of the area,

  • Surveying of the area, and its identification on the scheme plan,

  • The ongoing legal protection of the area, usually via a consent notice condition.

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 for 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:

  • 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.

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 or (09) 427 9966.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plusand 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.

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