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After a nine-year process the Environment Court has ruled how rural subdivision is to continue in the Thames-Coromandel District. The proposed District Plan was initiated in March 2011, notified for public submissions in late-2013 and council’s final decision was released April 2016. Since then it’s been under appeal.
Many people objected to TCDC’s decisions, resulting in several court appeals. These were heard during the subsequent four years. Following some stringent council proposals and some very strong argument against, we’re now pretty well back to where we started on subdivision. In fact, the rules even hold more opportunities for many.
The Court ruled that the boundary adjustment provisions contained in previous rules will carry on, removing TCDC’s proposed limit to the amount of land that could be exchanged. This eliminates significant uncertainty for many.
Another rule reinstated by the Court permits an average block size of 20ha for a rural subdivision. That rule has been used for many years under the old plan.
Given the potential for protection of vast tracts of forest throughout the peninsula, the most significant change from TCDC’s proposal is reintroduction of rural conservation lot subdivisions across the district. Council’s proposal allowed these subdivisions only in certain priority areas. I believe the final outcome is significantly better than the old rules and TCDC’s initial proposed change. It’s much fairer to all landowners and encourages rehabilitation rather than just maintaining the quality ecological features.
While there is requirement for increased areas of lowland forest to be protected in order to qualify for subdivision compared to past rules, this is balanced by reduced areas of other forest and introduction of additional categories. The development of this rule has seen significant input by some of NZ’s leading ecologists to create, what I consider, rules that could be beneficially adopted nationwide.
Features qualifying for protection to create a subdivision now include wetland and duneland (.5ha minimum), floodplain forest (1ha minimum), coastal forest (5ha minimum), coastal escarpment forest (2ha minimum) and lowland forest (10ha minimum). Larger areas of protection are needed in order to subdivide multiple lots and there’s a limit of two new lots in the Coastal Zone, with four in other rural areas.
As predicted, the Environment Court’s final rules bear little resemblance to those proposed by council. After nine years we now have a concrete set of rules to work with. Plus, there’s a host of other considerations in presenting a compelling subdivision application to council. If you have any plans for subdivision in future and want to make the most out of your land, please feel free to call me for a quick chat first.
Brent Trail, managing director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Waikato, Hauraki, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty. For further information, call 027 499 3778 or email: email@example.com