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Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes - effect on farming

By By Anna Bensemann, Senior Planner, Baseline Group | Aug 02, 2022

From time to time a Council will review its planning documents or look to update them in light of changes to the common understanding of best practice planning. The Resource Management Act (RMA) also requires a review of each planning provision every 10 years to ensure its still relevant for similar reasons.

One of the most contentious planning issues that arises from these reviews is the aim to shift the lines on the maps delineating features such as coastal environment, areas of high or outstanding natural character, and areas of high or outstanding natural features and landscapes. The reason these lines on the map carry significance for landowners is the subsequent limitations to the use of rural land.

We live in an environment where economic markets are variable, and people need to pivot their economic model to respond to these markets, such as responding to the effects of a global pandemic. Any restrictions on the use of land, has the potential to limit the ability to for people to adapt.

An example of this is the limits placed on rural zoned land to host visitors in separate visitor accommodation units such as an Air BnB unit. The presence of a non-rural commercial activity triggers the need for a resource consent. While this may not be fatal on its own, the presence of further limitations within the district planning framework, such as an outstanding natural landscapes overlay may be fatal.

Councils cannot make changes to the district planning provisions without going through an appropriate consultation process, which includes formally notification of the plan change and a hearing to listen to the concerns of the individuals who make submissions. The process can be complex and requires a submitter to understand the value of their submission, not only for its content, but also for the scope it provides to advance to environment court should the outcome from the process not be in favour of the original submission intent.

Making a submission requires an understanding of the real on-the-ground issues at hand and how this is managed through the planning provisions including rules, policies, and objectives. A submission also needs an understanding of how to construct an argument specific enough to ideally get the results you want from the initial council processes but broad enough to allow for an appeal to Environment Court.

Often, the short time frames to prepare a submission make it difficult to fully understand the implications of the provisions proposed, and so taking advice from those who deal with these plans every day will ensure you make submissions you can rely on throughout a district wide plan change process.

If you receive notification that your land is part of a study to reconsider planning provisions, or an area subject to a plan change process, start investigating quickly to fully understand the potential limitations to your land and your future use of land, and make sure you get involved in the process.

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