Do you have that dream of being surrounded by space, open fields, maybe some sheep and chickens, peace and tranquility? Is that really what a lifestyle block is all about?
As our cities develop, so to do the outskirt areas where productive rural land is cut up into lifestyle sites. A retiring farmer might buy one of these lifestyle sites, but often it’s a former urban dweller or “townie” trying their hand at “the good life”. Peoples expectations from living in the city are often very different to the reality of rural life. Here are some things to consider before you take the plunge.
Do you really want to live in a rural environment?
You may have an idea of what rural living is like, but that’s not always the reality. Rural areas produce food, goods and are frequented by heavy vehicles. They contain quarries and mines, farmers and growers are sometimes working through the night- using lights, vehicles and machinery. Helicopters may be needed to manage frost, crops may be sprayed. Tree harvesting, irrigation and effluent spreading can also impact on nearby sites but are usually expected activities in rural environments.
Many of these types of activities can occur without a resource consent in a rural environment, meaning you will get no say in how they operate. Rural environments are not quiet, high amenity environments; they are working environments and you need to go into these areas with your eyes open.
If you’ve been living in an urban area, you may be used to driving for a couple of minutes to buy that loaf of bread you forgot, drop the kids to a friends house or get to work. You can probably walk to a bus stop and the kids can walk to school. Lifestyle blocks are located further away, and often on metal roads; it takes longer to get to places. You may have access to a school bus, but this is not always the case. You will use more fuel and spend a lot more time in the car. A long commuting time can be one of the biggest stresses for the lifestyle block owner, and a big contributor to people selling and moving back to the city again.
You are highly unlikely to have reticulated water, wastewater or stormwater supply on a rural site and this means you need to manage these on-site. This is an extra cost if you’re building, and extra ongoing maintenance. There are also capacity limits that you need to be aware of.
In summer you may need to buy water, depending on how much you have stored in tanks. You will also need an alternative water source for firefighting. In some rural areas there are no rubbish or recycling collections.
Rural areas are not always well covered for mobile phone or internet services. Not all houses will have a wired phone service. Check this before you buy.
What are you going to do with the land?
If you’re moving onto a lifestyle block to enjoy more space, how are you going to manage that space? Will you lease it to someone else, get some sheep or cows? Maybe you want to plant some crops? One or two hectares may seem like a large area of land when you’ve come from 600m2, but in reality, its not. This is a very basic rule of thumb and it will vary, but generally one acre (0.4ha or 4000m²) in an area with good rainfall and reasonably healthy, well-maintained soil and pasture should support:
one cow for one year, raising a calf until about three months of age, OR
six sheep or goats raising lambs or kids until about three months of age, OR
1-2 horses, if hard feed and hay is provided over winter.
You can see that a lifestyle block wont have a very large carrying capacity.
You will need to carefully consider the topography of the land, types of soils, drainage, access, natural features (e.g. streams) and fencing to identify what’s best for the land. You also need to carefully consider how much time you have, and how much money you want to invest into the site.
It takes a lot of effort to manage a lifestyle site. Animal care alone is time consuming, not to mention fixing fences, gates, cutting grass, maintaining trees, maintaining your site services and controlling pests.
Lifestyle blocks are definitely one of those situations where you need to go into it with your eyes open- make sure you have a realistic picture of what it’ll be like and make sure that’s what you want!
Own a lifestyle block and want to develop it?
If you have a rural site and want advice on development potential, give our team a call. We have over 15 years of rural experience and will give you honest and reliable advice about development potential. Our resource consent specialists can tell you all the ins and outs of the process, and how to increase your changes of success. We look forward to hearing from you! firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.