The Government’s policy to protect fertile land – food producers insist – has been too long coming.
The pace of urban sprawl and of concreting over fertile soils strongly suggests the growers are right. Over the past 20 years, about 35,000 hectares of our highly productive land has been carved up for urban or rural residential development while 70,000 hectares has been converted to lifestyle blocks.
Environment Minister David Parker said the NPS will greatly improve the protection of highly productive land from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.
“We need to house our people and to feed them too. Our cities and towns need to grow but not at the expense of the land that’s best suited to grow our food.
“The NPS-HPL will help protect our best growing areas so Kiwis continue to have access to leafy greens and other healthy foods.”
Agriculture and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said highly productive land provides food for New Zealanders, significant economic and employment benefits to communities and underpins the value of New Zealand’s primary sector.
“Once land is built on, it can no longer be used to grow food and fibre. That’s why we are moving to protect our most fertile and versatile land, especially in our main food production areas like Auckland, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Horowhenua and Canterbury, ” Damien O’Connor said.
Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri said the Government has worked closely with local authorities, industry, growers, and Māori organisations to develop a policy that is workable and fit-for-purpose.
“This policy statement supports the sector by ensuring our best land will remain available for food and fibre production,” Meka Whaitiri said.
The NPS-HPL sits alongside other national direction, including the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD).
The NPS-HPL will work in a complementary way with the NPS-UD. Urban intensification enabled under the NPS-UD will reduce the demand for outward urban growth on highly productive land.
“This recognises that using land for primary production needs to occur within environmental limits, and ensures that all land can be used and managed to best effect,” David Parker said.
Councils, in limited circumstances, will still be able to rezone highly productive land for urban housing if less productive land is not available, or if certain tests can be met.
But the NPS-HPL will introduce strong restrictions on the use of highly productive land for new rural lifestyle developments, he said.
The NPS-HPL will be transitioned into the two Acts replacing the Resource Management Act – the Spatial Planning Act (SPA) and the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA).
The National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land 2022 will be available here: https://environment.govt.nz/publications/national-policy-statement-for-highly-productive-land
RNZ reported a Pukekohe grower saying the new policy should have been implemented long ago.
Jivan Produce owner Bharat Jivan said the pace of housing intensification has quickened in the past 15 years and growers were running out of space to grow crops.
Similarly, in Hawke’s Bay, Yummy Apples general manager Paul Paynter said about 3400 hectares in Hastings alone had been covered in concrete over the past 80 years
He said the new policy statement could be a little confusing, “but the principles they’ve put in place are very sensible and they’re functional, deliver good outcomes”.
Environment Minister David Parker told Morning Report most councils were in favour of the new policy statement.
It’s probably too late for the government to come up with a Three Waters policy that similarly is favoured by most councils.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton