What is the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land?

Councils throughout New Zealand are bound by National Policy Statements which are in place for the purpose of stating objectives and policies for matters of national significance.

The latest one we have encountered in our day to day work is the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL) which came into effect in October 2022.

The NPS-HPL is designed to ensure the availability of New Zealand’s most favourable soils for future food production. The NPS-HPL provides direction to improve the way highly productive land is managed under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

There are six categories of productive land and in practical terms they are listed as “Classes” and some classes can prohibit subdivision or fragmentation of land. We have encountered this on several jobs with two rural subdivisions in particular – one where we proposed to subdivide land in return for creating bush protections lots (NPS-HPL trumps this purpose) and one for a small scale lifestyle subdivision.

The mapping of the NPS-HPL is not always accurate and in both the above cases, the properties were mapped as Class III and therefore fragmentation was not appropriate. We therefore required expert reporting to verify the appropriateness of the classification. Where land has been modified or, for example, is too steep then say a Class III classification might not be correct. That turned out to be the case here as we were able to accurately map the land and confirm the true contour.

In summary, Soils Classification is one of the parameters we check when advising on the subdivision of land  and we can refer to a qualified Soils Scientist as well as published records to check on the current classification for your property before going too far down the subdivision track.

As with all legislation of this type, Council’s must decide how to interpret and apply these rules so it is always an evolving situation which we keep up to date with during the course of our work.