Can I subdivide my farm?

Your land surveyed
with Brent Trail
Surveying Services Ltd

This question is getting harder to answer by the day. You have all heard of the Resource Management Act – every political party wants to either repeal it or amend it.

Well, that won’t be happening near you any time soon. Since being enacted in 1990 it has become entrenched in our society, being amended many times with the desire to make it work better. My experience is that the many amendments have made subdivision so much harder.

To be fair, it is not just the legislation but how each individual council interprets and implements the RMA, when setting their subdivision rules, which has made it hard. Perhaps the current housing shortage will push government into repealing it and starting afresh – who knows.

So, every council has their own rules. They have minimum areas for both rural and town sections being created. In the rural areas there are also rules relating to the size and sometimes the age of the existing ‘parent’ title. Often now the minimum rural block size on quality soils or grazing land is around 40ha. However, some councils set aside localities for more intensive horticultural or lifestyle block subdivision – or allow limited small blocks to be cut off older farms, as in Waikato. So, the first place to look might be the respective council’s website, or you may see a neighbour doing a subdivision.

If you believe that your property may qualify, you’d be best to contact a local subdivision specialist. Those who specialise in this space will know the rules, and what discretion they have to propose a subdivision which doesn’t quite fit the rules.

It is not just a matter of getting the areas correct though. There are many issues to investigate, such as the ability to build safely on the new section, provide safe access from the road, eliminate possible past contamination of the land due to cropping or other activities, and avoiding archaeological sites to mention but a few. These issues must be formally reported on to council as part of a resource consent application.

The subdivision specialist will work, on your behalf, to demand from council the best conditions on the resource consent, as they work through the process to obtain a saleable new title for you. Most often you will be required to provide the new section with appropriate service connections for wastewater, electricity, telephone and a permanent safe entry to the adjoining road. Such conditions can be onerous and must be considered at the outset.

This process can take many months to complete, depending on the specific site issues, and is not something you would take on without expert help. There are many opportunities for hold-ups and, in fact, failure if you don’t engage with the correct process and engage a specialist company.

If you have an idea that subdivision is a possibility for you, due to activity in your area or you have had a good steer from council, I’m happy to give you the time to discuss the full potential for your land. Feel free to give me a call and discuss your situation.

Brent Trail, managing director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Waikato, Coromandel, Hauraki and Bay of Plenty. For further information, call 027 4993 778 or email:


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