By Anna Bensemann, Senior Planner, Baseline Group Marlborough, Ph 0279460445, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Not all rural land is equal, some is naturally fertile and some is hard to work with and good for very little, despite the broadscale classifications in our District Plans. Alternative land use in the rural zone such as commercial or industrial activities may seem like a good option for land that is less than productive. Especially if a site is close to key land transport networks. But non-rural activities in rural zones are likely to conflict with the District Plan provisions.
When a Council zones land for rural use there is an expectation the land will serve for animal or plant production. However, Zoning of land is a very blunt tool that does not recognise the variation in productivity across the zone. The rural zone, in particular, seems to be used for all the bits left over once urban, industrial, conservation and rural residential areas have been identified. Yet, the same rules apply across the rural zone limiting permitted activities to only rural production. If an activity is not a rural activity then it usually requires a resource consent to locate in the rural area, regardless if the piece of rural land is unproductive.
Councils are aiming to use the District Plan provisions to prevent the broad scale loss of rural land to small allotment sizes for rural residential development where good quality land is lost from productive use. They are also aiming to ensure that the character of the rural zone is not compromised by activities that are more noisy or busy than typical rural areas. Rules to restrict use across the whole rural zone are the simplest method Councils use to achieve this.
The idealist rural countryside envisioned by most councils with sheep and cows frolicking in the paddocks (and not the waterways) does not mean that alternative uses of the rural zone cannot be made. But an application for resource consent to demonstrate why the spot is a good location and how the activity will avoid adverse effects on the surrounding rural values is required.
When considering these applications councils will look at how close to major transport networks the activity is, to avoid extra traffic on small rural roads. They will consider if the activity will generate lots of noise, or consistent noise that is not similar to the use of tractors and quadbikes typical of farming activities. They will consider if signage is required, staff have to travel too the site and if customers will be accessing the site. These kinds of factors determine the success or failure of an application for non-rural activities in the rural zone.
So if your land is not ideal sheep frolicking country and you want to consider using it for a commercial or industrial use, consider what the surrounding land uses are, what impact you will have on the road network, if your neighbours are likely to agree to your activity, and if you will generate noise that is out of character with the typical rural zone. You may be onto a good alternative use of rural land that is good for very little else.