Government issues national policy statement for highly productive land

Market gardens in Pukekohe, south of Auckland City.
Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

The government has taken a step towards protecting the country’s most productive land from urban development.

The National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Lands (NPS-HPL) released today aims to ensure that these lands can be used to grow vegetables, fruits and other crops.

Councils will now need to identify, map and manage productive land to protect it from inappropriate use and development.

However, they can still make it available for city housing if there is no alternative, or if certain criteria are met.

Agriculture and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said the highly productive land provides food for New Zealanders, significant economic and employment benefits for communities and underpins the value of the primary sector of the country.

“Today’s changes strengthen the protection of our highly productive lands, giving farmers, growers and other food producers certainty about the future, and provide greater economic security for all Newcomers. Zealanders.

“Over the past 20 years, approximately 35,000 hectares of our highly productive land has been carved out for urban or rural residential development, while 170,000 hectares of this land has been converted into living blocks.

“Once the land is built up, it can no longer be used to grow food and fiber. That’s why we strive to protect our most fertile and versatile land, especially in our main production areas. food like Auckland, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Horowhenua and Canterbury.”

Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri said the government was working closely with local authorities, industry, growers and Maori organizations to develop a viable and fit-for-purpose policy.

The NPS-HPL would complement the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which would reduce the demand for outward urban growth on highly productive land, the government said.

Environment Minister David Parker said councils, in limited circumstances, would still be able to rezone highly productive land for urban housing – if less productive land was not available or certain tests could be satisfied.

“However, the NPS-HPL will introduce strong restrictions on the use of highly productive land for new rural lifestyle developments.”

The NPS-HPL will be transformed into two Acts replacing the Resource Management Act – the Spatial Planning Act (SPA) and the Natural and Built Environments Act (LNB).

Director of Bioprotection Aotearoa, Professor Amanda Black, said in comments provided by the Science Media Center that she was concerned about the time it would take to put the statement into effect.

“The protection of highly productive lands has been a concern for food producers and scientists for more than two decades. The release of an NPS on highly productive lands is at least a recognition of the national importance of this issue and the impact that the continued loss has for our own food security, wider Pacific food security and, of course, export earnings.

“My concern is that it will take at least 3.5 years to actually be implemented and this is highly dependent on coordination between authorities. will always go forward.

“There are also a number of exceptions to the protection of highly productive land that raise questions: Will the NPS be able to adequately protect our future food supply? And is it too little too late?”

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