Common problems when planning subdivisions in NZ

Your land surveyed
with Brent Trail
Surveying Services Ltd

Subdivision planning on rural land is becoming a much more complex process as the years pass by. It is not just about protecting the productivity of our land. There is an expectation, at least from some, that the rural landscape will remain unchanged.

In reality, with changing land use forced upon us by the global economy, that position is unrealistic. As is often said: ‘The only thing that is certain is change’.

As a means of controlling the effects – and perceived effects – of subdivision, local councils have a District Plan that sets out many rules controlling subdivision planning. These rules are reviewed every 10 years and continue to get tougher as the country develops further.

Because subdivision is something people don’t do that often, we get involved right at the start when we are asked: ‘How to subdivide my land?’

Since we have carried out many subdivisions over the years in many local council districts, we generally have a very good idea. However, since rules are changing often and since every piece of land has a different history and landform, we need to research both the legal title to the land and the District Plan.

A Minefield

This document is a minefield of interrelated chapters covering minimum section areas and dimensions, land use allowed, landscape, ecological protection, vehicle access, house sites and construction of services – such as water, wastewater, power and phone.

Many of us remember how the Resource Management Act (RMA) was sold to us. “You can do what you like, as long as the effects are mitigated”.

Well that sounded great at the time, until the list of effects was published. Unfortunately, this list continues to grow. It seems every time the RMA is overhauled – often on the pretense of streamlining – life gets harder in relation to resource consents for land development and subdividing.

Today’s common problems when planning rural subdivisions include satisfying council that any new house site proposed will not impact on natural landscape features, will protect archaeological and ecological features, and will not impact on the outlook of the general public or other people already occupying surrounding sites. We must do this all while utilising a stable building site with safe access onto the road.


Juggling all these, and many more issues during the planning exercise, requires skill and experience to produce a quality economic subdivision design that will pass the scrutiny of council and any affected persons. Obtaining the resource consent from council then requires significant patience on top of this.

If subdividing or adjusting boundaries are on your radar this year you should contact a professional surveying company to set you in the right direction. It is a complex legal process and you need to get off on the right foot. Looking on council’s website or discussing with a duty planner at council can clarify minimum section areas required but there is much more that they aren’t able to assess without a full professional application. I ‘m more than happy to discuss your opportunities for now and the future, so don’t hesitate to give me a call.

Brent Trail, managing director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Coromandel, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty. For further information, call 0800 268 632 or email:


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