Landcare scientist John Dymond says too much high-value agricultural land is being lost to lifestyle blocks.
He’s called for urgent action and national monitoring of rural land fragmentation.
He also wants a national policy statement to prioritise NZ’s best agricultural land for productive uses.
“This is one case where short-term market conditions favour outcomes that are unlikely to be in the nation’s long-term interest,” he said.
In research published recently in the journal of the Royal Society he said in some areas the rate of subdivision of high-class land was very high. Already lifestyle blocks covered 35% of Auckland’s best agricultural land.
There was no reason to expect the demand for rural subdivisions to subside but NZ’s best agricultural land was valuable, limited and a non-renewable resource, he said.
Lifestyle blocks make up 5% of NZ’s non-reserved land and 10% of all high-class land.
Lifestyle block developments had far outstripped loss of land through urbanisation in recent years, he said.
“Fully one-tenth of NZ’s most productive agricultural land has already been converted to lifestyle sections and this has increased rapidly in the last 10 years.” . . .
Real Estate agents love lifestyle blocks because they tend to turn over regularly.
People move out with rosy dreams of a rural lifestyle but soon get sick of the demands the care of their few hectares put on them and the time wasted commuting to work, school, sports and social activities.
Planning rules in some areas aim to retain the rural character by requiring subdivisions to be bigger than the 1000ish or 500ish square metres (quarter and eight of an acre in old money) sections allowed in urban centres.
That tends to turn once productive land into a series of over-grown gardens or pony paddocks.
Three surveys in Western Bay of Plenty between 1996 and 2005 showed up to two-thirds of properties less than 4ha and up to 82% of those less than 1.5ha were not being used for productive purposes.
On only 29% of lots did production increase and these tended to be between three and 8ha in size. . .
Unless the owners have very green figures with a horticultural bent, most lifestyle blocks aren’t nearly as productive as bigger blocks and even if they are they don’t have the economies of scale.
It might be better to allow smaller sections and high density developments on less productive land and keep better land in economic units.
However, when land supply is one of the major factors influencing high prices for houses, the suggestion of restricting the subdivision of productive land on the outskirts of cities wouldn’t be popular.