3 Aug 2010

Councils review lifestyle block size rules

1:42 pm on 3 August 2010

A number of local councils want the minimum size of lifestyle blocks increased to curb the rise in the number of houses in rural areas.

The New Plymouth District Council is proposing to raise the minimum size of lifestyle blocks from four hectares to 20.

The council's manager of environmental strategy and policy, Colin Comber, says it's about keeping rural spaces uncrowded and free of development.

The level of small-scale subdivision has been increasing, he says, and if it continues at the present rate there will be a significant reduction of rural amenity and character.

Mr Comber says that since the council announced the proposal it has received an influx of applications to subdivide rural land.

Waikato also considering idea

Waikato District Council is also considering tightening up rules on the size of lifestyle blocks.

Its general manager of strategy and support, Tony Whittaker, says the region's population is expected to double in 50 years and the rural landscape needs safeguarding.

But the editor of the website lifestyleblock.co.nz, Kate Brennan, says 20 hectares is too much for an inexperienced owner to look after, and there would be a risk of animal welfare problems and of pests and weeds getting out of control.

Ms Brennan says the proposed change would prevent people living in and enjoying the countryside.

And Peter McDonald, from Taranaki rural real-estate firm McDonald Real Estate, says it would kill the New Zealand dream of living in the countryside.

Mr McDonald says the lifestyle property market in Taranaki is very strong, and he doesn't see the rush of applications as negative.

There are an estimated 140,000 lifestyle blocks throughout the country.