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Subdivision in the Countryside Living zone

Updated: Feb 13

Living the “good life” on a lifestyle site is a long-held dream for many city dwellers. Sometimes however the land size is a little bit too much, and you may feel a smaller site is more manageable. Being able to subdivide your site can also bring in additional income and help offset the usually high price of buying a lifestyle site. Is subdivision an option for you?

What is subdivision?

In a planning and Resource Management Act (RMA) sense, subdivision of land means the “division of an allotment”. This can include a boundary adjustment, where you don’t create any additional sites, but you change the location of some or all of the boundaries and change the site sizes. You can find out more about boundary adjustments in our recent blog here. In this blog we will look into subdivision where you create additional sites, and specifically in the Countryside Living Zones in Auckland.

What zone is your site in?

Zoning of your site plays a fundamental role in subdivision potential, and if your resource consent is likely to be approved. The district plan (in Auckland, the Auckland Unitary Plan) sets out your sites zoning and the related subdivision rules, objectives and policies. Our blog here will help you identify the zoning of your site.

Subdivision in the Countryside Living Zones

In Auckland, under the Auckland Unitary Plan there are primarily two types of subdivision (where new sites are created) in the Countryside Living zone and both require resource consent. These are what we would call a “standard” subdivision, and a subdivision using Transferable Rural Sites (TRSS) which can be used if your site is in the Subdivision Variation Control Overlay (you can confirm this by looking at the Auckland Unitary Plan maps).

“Standard” Subdivision

A “Standard” subdivision is where you subdivide the parent site, with the subdivision entitlement being created by the parent sites size. This is detailed in Table E39. of the Auckland Unitary Plan, and in most locations requires a minimum net site area after the subdivision is completed, of 2 hectares per site (different rules apply in some locations, such as Whitford, Point Wells, Swanson etc so please check the above Table with your planner). In simple terms, this means you would need a parent site of at least 4 hectares to be able to subdivide it into two using this rule pathway.

The sites should also have suitable road frontage, primarily to enable access. This can be via direct road frontage (minimum 15m for a front site) or a right of way easement/ jointly owned access lot (minimum of 6m for a rear site).

Subdivision Variation Control Overlay

This is a second subdivision pathway in the Countryside Living Zone, if your site is specifically identified in the Subdivision Variation Control Overlay. In this overlay, you can undertake a “transferable rural site subdivision” or TRSS. This is where a “donor” site in the rural zone is subdivided (although not practically) using other rules in the Auckland Unitary Plan, such a by protecting an area of significant bush or wetland, and the resulting subdivision right created is transferred to your site (called the “receiver site”).

This rule pathways enables you to create additional sites, by using the donor sites title right- you can create sites that are a net site area of 8000m2 but maintain an average net site area of 1 hectare throughout the development. This is much smaller than the 2-hectare minimum net site area able to be created under the “Standard” subdivision pathway described above. This means that while you will need to buy the title right from the donor site owner, you can create more sites at the recipient site as these can be smaller and increase the lot yield.

The “donor” site application and the “receiver” site application are assessed together and lodged as one resource consent application. The timing can be quite complicated, as it usually involves two separate parties (the owner of the “donor” site and the owner of the “receiver” site)- we recommend speaking to your planner early.

Sites created under these rules also need to have road frontage (or access to it) as discussed above.

What else should I look out for?

The sites zoning and size are the main factors defining subdivision potential in the Countryside Living Zone. Once you’ve investigated these factors, 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 (or 3G) 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:

  • Surveyor,

  • Geotechnical engineer,

  • Civil engineer.

Depending on your site, its characteristics, and the natural features present, you could also require input from:

  • An ecologist,

  • 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 the Countryside Living 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.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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