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  Council » Policies and Plans » Plans under development » PROPOSED WAIKATO REGIONAL PLAN CHANGE 1 » Frequently asked questions (FAQ) and infosheets » Land use change

Land use change

What do the rules say about changing land use?

Changing the use of land on a property to a more intensive activity may require a resource consent. The land use change rule applies when the new land use is more intensive than the land use on 22 October 2016, and when the net change in area exceeds 4.1ha.

Land intensification includes:

land use change diagram

*Dairy farming means farming of dairy cows on a milking platform for milk production.

In some of the above scenarios a resource consent may not be necessary. For example, if your property is changing land use as part of a normal crop rotation, or you’re making temporary changes to a less intensive land use, you may not require a resource consent.

You are encouraged to contact Waikato Regional Council to discuss your specific situation

Where does the land use change rule apply?

This rule applies to all properties in the Waikato and Waipa River catchments. If you’re not sure if your property falls in this area, use Find My Farm.

Why did the Collaborative Stakeholder Group develop this rule?

From early on, the Collaborative Stakeholder Group was concerned about how the intensification of land use impacts water quality. Farm Environment Plans (FEP), a key mitigation tool in the proposed plan change, will help manage contaminants lost to water, however FEPs are being rolled out in a staged approach. An interim measure was needed to ensure that all the good work being done on-farm as part of a FEP would not be undone by changes in land use.

It’s important to note that the land use change rule expires on 1 July 2026. It is expected that at that time additional policies will be in place to ensure continued improvements in water quality.

Why does the land use change rule come into effect when the proposed plan change is publicly notified?

FAQ land useClick here [PDF, 3.1 MB] to download

All rules come into effect when the proposed plan change is notified, but the land use change rule is the only one with immediate requirements. This rule was put into effect immediately to ensure that all the good work done on-farm as part of a FEP would not be undone by changes in land use. 

Will the plan change stop large scale conversions in the upper Waikato?

Under the land use change rule, large scale forestry to dairy land conversions, such as those that have occurred in the Upper Waikato, would require a resource consent application. So there will be a high degree of scrutiny of the effects of the land use change.

Resource consent applications will generally only be granted if the new land use can be shown to have lower losses of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria than the previous land use.

Why was this rule not limited only to the upper Waikato?

The proposed plan change is designed to address water quality across the entire Waikato and Waipā catchments through the management of nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria and sediment levels. The rule needs to apply across the entire catchment to effect the changes we are trying to make within this first 10 years. 

Will the land use change rule affect land values?

The short answer is yes, the land use change rule could affect land values. That’s because the rule restricts the land use options available to potential buyers. So properties that had the greatest potential to increase production could be most impacted in terms of land value. 

Is any land not covered by this rule?

Some types of land are not covered by this rule. Commercial vegetable production enterprises may bring new land into commercial vegetable production, if the same amount of existing vegetable growing land is retired.

The proposed plan also includes objectives and policies that could allow for the development of tangata whenua ancestral lands (land returned under the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and Māori freehold land). This was included to recognise that flexibility has been, and continues to be, restricted by factors including land legislation and ownership structures. If this land was developed, all other rules in the proposed plan change, such as stock exclusion, and demonstrating best management practice for the new land use, would still apply. Consent would be required in the same way it is for other land, and would need to consider the impact of land development on water quality.

This information has been provided based on Waikato Regional Council’s interpretation of the proposed plan. The proposed plan is subject to change through the hearings process.

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