A new lifestyle zone will come into being with the creation of a combined district plan for the West Coast.
The region’s four councils and iwi are working together on the Te Tai o Poutini Plan – the document that will replace all current district plans and regulate land use in the future.
The planners writing the new rules say much of the land available for new housing in the main towns has been used since the current district plans were written for Westland, Grey and Buller.
And while there has been some “infill” there has been a big increase in rural residential, or lifestyle development on the edges of towns.
Because there were no rules to cover that in Westland, Buller and many areas around Greymouth, there had been conflicts between lifestylers and rural landowners, the planners said.
Lifestyle blocks next to milking platforms or mining activities for instance were creating “reverse sensitivities” – with newcomers objecting to noise or other practices that pre-dated their arrival.
Unregulated lifestyle development also created demand for infrastructure like footpaths not normally found in rural areas, and could lead to good productive land being lost to housing. As the planners see it, there are two ways of managing that.
One is to create lifestyle zones close to main towns and confine all lifestyle development to those zones.
The other option was to have a zone, but also allow some lifestyle blocks in the rural zone – subject to certain rules and conditions.
Councillors discussing the possibilities at this month’s Te Tai o Poutini Plan Committee meeting were uneasy about the second option, in particular.
“If everyone does this it’s a waste of land … it might be nice to have no neighbours, but it’s producing nothing,” regional council chairman Allan Birchfield said.
The council already heard on a regular basis from people who had “encroached” on land near a farm or mining operation, and complained about it, he said.
Grey District councillor Anton Becker agreed that lifestyle blocks should be restricted to the land around towns and existing settlements.
“At Ahaura, we’ve had subdivision happening on small lots, going out of town and it’s actually made the place grow, bringing in more people and it’s introduced three small businesses.”
The planners are proposing three rural zones – lifestyle, general rural and a settlement zone.
The key difference between the settlement zone and the lifestyle zone is that productive activity such as grazing and horticulture would be allowed in the lifestyle zone, on lots as small as 1ha.
Some things would be excluded: the storage and disposal of solid and liquid animal waste, stock saleyards and farm quarries.
Permitted activities would include beekeeping, sphagnum moss production, processing of horticultural and agricultural products produced on site, wood lots and the sale of produce grown on the property.
Becker said beekeeping should not be allowed on 1-hectare lots.
“Not small lots with other houses around them.”
Westland Mayor Bruce Smith supported that.
“We’ve got some issues with bees. One out at Rimu where someone’s put some hives in … the bees specifically line up [the neighbours’] clothesline. They’ve got a flight path and they s… on the washing – it’s a really contentious problem,” he said.
Senior planner Lois Easton said the planners had received a lot of feedback from the Westland council staff about beekeeping and intended to write in some performance standards (for beekeepers) around that.
“It is something councils can regulate with a bylaw, but we have suggested putting in standards so they have to put something in front of the hive, and the bees have to go up high before they leave the property and also they must have a water source in the property.”
Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said lifestyle development was “a horse that had bolted” in his district and asked what would happen to existing farms that ended up in the new lifestyle zone.
“I’m a farmer surrounded by lifestyle blocks, and my area could easily fit this zone. Is this existing use rights a thing, and what’s the trigger if I needed a minor consent for something and next thing all the lifestyle zone rules come in?”