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Auckland Council report suggests 66% of the city's future urban zoned land is on elite or prime soils as the government works on a national policy statement for highly productive land

Auckland Council report suggests 66% of the city's future urban zoned land is on elite or prime soils as the government works on a national policy statement for highly productive land

The threat of Auckland's rapid growth to highly productive land in areas like Pukekohe is back on the Auckland Council’s agenda, with a new report saying approximately 66% of the city's future urban zoned land is on elite or prime soils.

The report to the council’s Rural Advisory Panel was authored by council planner Ryan Bradley. It comes as the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and the Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) are already developing a national policy statement on highly productive land.

A report by MfE and Statistics NZ released in April last year titled Our land, found a 10% increase in the total size of towns and cities between 1996 and 2012, and a 7% decrease in the amount of land being used for agricultural production between 2002 and 2016.  

Council’s input

The council is now expected to decide whether to proceed with a submission on the Government’s national policy statement. According to the committee report it has been working closely with the MPI on it.

“Over the past year Auckland Council (along with other stakeholders) has been involved in early consultation on this matter through workshops, correspondence with MPI, and supplying information around development on highly productive land in Auckland.”

It says the city’s future urban zone within the Rural Urban Boundary covers some 10,095 hectares, and around 66% of the future urban zoned land is on elite or prime soils. The main areas affected are in Whenuapai, Kumeu-Huapai, Drury-Opaheke, Takanini and Pukekohe/Paerata.

Urban sprawl

The report says information it has provided to MPI shows that since 2012 there have been 1,302 residential sections created (118ha) around the existing town of Pukekohe. While a further 308 sites (33ha) have been granted resource consents but have not yet had titles created.

“The vast majority of these new residential sites are located on elite or prime soils.”

It says MfE has advised council that the proposed national policy statement will provide councils with greater clarity on how highly productive land should be considered in Resource Management Act decision-making.

“The national policy statement intends to address the gradual reduction in availability of this resource for primary production, as well as to manage fragmentation and reverse sensitivity effects.”

Deputy Mayor disputes figure

But council Rural Advisory Panel chairman and Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore disputes that 66% of future urban zoned land in the city is on elite or prime soils.

"I would question that. I don't believe that's the case, there's no way it would be 66%. I would dispute that 66% of the future urban zoned development will be on horticultural quality land."

He says in the case of Pukekohe some of the land use issues in the area are the result of historical decisions by the now defunct Franklin District Council, as well as Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan which came into effect in 2016.

"There is some legacy stuff which we can't stop. But all the highly productive land in Franklin is now protected under the Unitary Plan."

Cashmore says the council has sought to restrict the impact of development on the area's elite soils.

But he says he supports the intent of the council report and the need to restrict the development of rurally productive land. 

Government’s concerns

In a media statement after the release of the Our land report in April last year, Environment Minister David Parker highlighted the loss of prime market gardening land in and around Pukekohe as a particular concern.

“I was particularly troubled by how much of our urban growth is occurring in our irreplaceable highly productive land," Parker said. "Even in a country as lucky as New Zealand we only have limited quantities of these high-class soils. I have asked officials to start work on a National Policy Statement for versatile land and high class soils. We have to ensure we have enough land to build the houses people need, but we must protect our most productive areas too.”

The ongoing importance of Pukekohe and the need to preserve it was highlighted in the Auckland Council’s recently released Climate Action Framework which is open for public consultation until September 6 and states:

“The Pukekohe hub comprises 4,359 hectares of some of New Zealand’s most fertile and productive soils. Fruit and vegetable production contribute $1.2 billion to Auckland’s economy. The hub generates $327 million, which is 26% of NZ’s total domestic value of vegetable production.

“From 2002 to 2016, vegetable-growing land across the country was reduced by 30%. Land like the hub faces increasing threats like urban sprawl. The future of the hub is important for Auckland. With a forgiving and temperate climate and proximity to essential transport routes, the hub is well-positioned to supply year-round vegetables to help feed Auckland’s growing demand for fresh food.”

Council growth plans for Pukekohe

The horticultural value of the area seems to be in direct contrast with the Auckland Council’s wider plans for the area, which sees Pukekohe’s growth as part of the solution to the city's burgeoning population.

Its Draft Pukekohe-Paerata Structure Plan released in April says that Auckland's population could grow by another 720,000 people to reach 2.4 million people over the next 30 years. The Auckland Council has identified Pukekohe as a “satellite town” with the potential to accommodate up to 14,000 additional dwellings, which would see its population grow from 23,600 people to over 50,000 people by 2040.

But this will require massive upgrades to the area’s water, wastewater, stormwater and transport infrastructure.

The Auckland Council’s Rural Advisory Panel, chaired by Cashmore, includes a wide range of representatives from a range of organisations from the NZ Forest Owners Association and Federated Farmers to Fonterra, Beef and Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ.

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There is no more time to argue about this, it will have to be protected, because you can guarantee that people with $ signs in their eyes won't give a fat rats other than for how much they can make.

Yep sure protect it - but they should offer some incentives - rates rebates, tax rebates etc for land that is producing food for local markets (NZ not just Auckland).

If you want to allow others to make money hand over fist developing unproductive land while expecting others to scrape by selling a few veges , which most people think are over priced now!! then you'd better offer incentives.

Of course the land would need re-rating accordingly, and whatever else you need to do to prove you are not off your flaming rocker allowing the best growing land around to be concreted over.

The council disputes the report from the council whilst waiting on the statements from government on national policy... ha, good one..
Surely we need a working group and some policy planners to consult, co-ordinate and report to the RAP and the MfE and MPI so the RMA can guide the ACC who don't know their ASS from their LBO.
But for the love of God... not the golf courses.

It's the UN motto writ small, eh:
"Let's hold committee meetings until They're All Dead It's All Built Over..."

Yup, this is the level of leadership we have. In short Pathetic.

Where to start.

As the report says, 66% of the urban zoned land is prime or elite soils, but as noted by CM council are disputing their own figures.

If this 66% figure is true, they zoned it. No one said that had to do this. Why would they zone endangered lands?

And according to past investigations into this issue, many farmers say they are forced to sell BECAUSE council rezone the land and increase their rates, making farming uneconomic. Of course for many farmers they couldn't be happier to take the increased value in their land, but some truly want to stay and farm.

The solution is pretty obvious to anyone with a little logic and common sense, ie not anyone in council.

1. Identify which lands need protecting.
2. Zone them as permanently protected lands - the farmers are saying they want this to happen.
3. Don't charge the owners rates that make earning a rural income unsustainable.
4. Allow owners of land that can be developed to get on and develop it as the market dictates.

Funnily enough, this is what they do in Texas, and their house prices are 3x median income.

Protected lands and affordable housing - who would have thought?

Just about every square inch of the land around Pukekohe, Patumahoe, Mauku, Bombay and Paerata should be preserved for food production, not just a bit of stuff that is being used now, we will need MORE of it not less.

This is the paradox about the cost of land in NZ. High land prices encourage sprawl in three ways.
1) The zoning restrictions, both up and out, make it more expensive to own land anywhere in the city so people have to move to the fringe to find more affordable housing, which of course keeps spilling into productive lands.
2) This forces up the price of development land to the point it is worth more than the best farm land, making the highest and best use (from a short term economic point of view) as housing. If development or redevelopment land further in was more affordable than prime rural land, then developers wouldn't be interested in buying it.
3) Councils focus on the CBD as the centre stops communities from being able to jump past productive land and form nodel cities that have both housing and employment adjacent to each other.

NZ exports far more food than we consume. If there's more economically productive uses for the land, then we should encourage it.

Yup more houses.. until it costs more to build a house than I can sell it for, or the banks don't see the yield in renting... certainly much easier than growing stuff... a nation of landlords... works for a while.

You do understand that the land around the old Franklin area is particularly unique as growing land, don't you. How about we build the houses on less productive land. Anyway it is sheer madness to just keep spreading and spreading in a world that needs fewer of us, not more

Time to shut the gate.............

And not Word One aboot the thousands of LifeStyle Blocks - too big to Mow, too small to Plow - growing thistles and ponies.....

Maybe a few fruit trees though. To feed the rats and possums with..

I was in Belmont yesterday and visited a block of six units on close to half an acre that could easily house 12 two-level maisonettes, probably 16. Intensive infill is the way to go. We could of course concrete over the country and then import food.

Welcome to the end-game of exponential growth within finite bounds.

Long term. lifestyle block is about the size required for local sustenance, beyond collapse of the global, fossil energy-driven system. Cities will be death-traps - more than half the global populace are in trouble....

There are some concepts that will become increasingly economical as technology improves. Vertical Farming, for example, reducing both the footprint required to grow food and the distance that it has to travel to market.

I think you are dreaming if you think vertical farming can grow food with all its nutrients intact

> lifestyle block is about the size required for local sustenance

I've often read this from you. I'm skeptical about this. If everyone moved to the country, wouldn't that deplete resources more quickly? Transportation and labour would be a big factor in making that succeed. I feel you mean lifestyle blocks with a global population of about 200-500 million.
I think people living in cities is much more economical, safer and greener, given the size of today's human population.

Safer provided there's no food or water shortage.

Living in the cities, stacks on the mill, leaves you completely and utterly at the mercy of others for just about everything you require.