National Policy Statement proposed for protection of Highly Productive Land

15 Aug 19

On 14 August 2019 the Ministry for the Environment (ME) and Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) released a discussion document on a proposed National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL).

The purpose of the NPS-HPL is to improve the management of highly productive land, and prevent further loss of this land as a result of urban expansion and changes in land-use. The proposed objectives and policies are designed to provide direction to local authorities on how to manage highly productive land.

The NPS-HPL proposes three objectives:

  • Objective 1: Recognising the benefits of highly productive land;
  • Objective 2: Maintaining the availability of highly productive land; and
  • Objective 3: Protection from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.

The objectives are not intended to provide absolute protection to highly productive land, or to prevent a net loss of highly productive land. The intention is to ensure highly productive land is available for future primary production needs.

The NPS-HPL will require local authorities to identify highly productive land through the Land Use Capability (LUC) system, which considers factors such as soil, erosion, and climate. Land would be categorised from Class 1 (high production) to Class 8 (low production) based on its versatility and ability to sustain productive uses. The proposed definition of ‘highly productive land’ includes Classes 1, 2, and 3; this covers 14% of the land in New Zealand, as shown in the figure below 1Map sourced from MPI Discussion Paper 2019/05. However, the NPS-HPL is also designed to enable local authorities to recognise highly productive properties in Classes 4-8 land in light of other features, such as land size or water availability.

The proposed objectives and policies include decision-making guidance to councils on plan change and resource consent applications, specifically those that rezone highly productive land or propose urban development on highly productive land. This guidance includes:

  • Avoidance of subdivision and fragmentation that compromises highly productive land use for primary production;
  • Avoidance of uncoordinated urban expansion on highly productive land not subject to a strategic planning process; and
  • Avoidance and mitigation of reverse sensitivity effects from incompatible activities adjacent to highly productive land.

Local authorities will be required to consider a number of factors such as alternative proposal locations, alternative options to intensify urban areas, and cost-benefit analyses associated with irreversible loss of highly productive land and benefits from allowing urban expansion.

Once the NPS-HPL is gazetted, Regional and District councils will be required to recognise and uphold the objectives and policies of the NPS-HPL through local plans. ME and MPI intend for the objectives and most of the policies to take immediate effect, with the exception of certain policies such as identification of highly productive land.


Want to know more?

More information about the proposed NPS-HPL is available here. Submissions are open until 10 October 2019.

If you would like to know how the proposed NPS-HPL may affect you, or for advice on making a submission, please contact our specialised Environment, Planning, and Natural Resources team.


PDF version: National Policy Statement proposed for protection of highly productive land

1 Map sourced from MPI Discussion Paper 2019/05