Saturday, April 13, 2024

Better protection for our most productive land

The Government has today released a National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL), which it says will enhance protections for New Zealand’s most productive land.

Environment Minister, David Parker said the Statement will greatly improve how the Government protects highly-productive land from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. 

“We need to house our people and to feed them too. Our cities and towns need to grow but not at the expense of the land that’s best suited to grow our food,” the Minister said.

He said Councils will be required to identify, map and manage highly productive land to ensure it’s available for growing vegetables, fruit and other primary production, now and into the future.

“The NPS-HPL will help protect our best growing areas so Kiwis continue to have access to leafy greens and other healthy foods.”

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

“Our Fit for a Better World roadmap that we developed with the sector will add $44 billion over 10 years to our primary sector exports, but is dependent on maintaining access to our highly productive soils,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Today’s changes enhance protection for our highly productive land giving farmers, growers, and other food producers certainty into the future, and provide greater economic security for all New Zealanders. 

“Over the last 20 years, about 35,000 hectares of our highly productive land has been carved up for urban or rural residential development, while 170,000 hectares of this land has been converted to lifestyle blocks.

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

Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri said the Government had worked closely with local authorities, industry, growers, and Māori organisations to develop a fit-for-purpose policy.

“This policy statement supports the sector by ensuring our best land will remain available for food and fibre production,” she said.

The NPS-HPL will sit alongside other national directions, including the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). 

It will work in a complementary way with the NPS-UD. Urban intensification enabled under the NPS-UD will reduce the demand for outward urban growth on highly productive land.

“This recognises that using land for primary production needs to occur within environmental limits, and ensures that all land can be used and managed to best effect,” Minister Parker said.

“Councils, in limited circumstances, will still be able to rezone highly-productive land for urban housing if less productive land is not available, or if certain tests can be met.

“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 transitioned into the two Acts replacing the Resource Management Act – the Spatial Planning Act (SPA) and the Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA).

“The work that councils will be required to do under the NPS-HPL can be transitioned with ease into the new plans required under the SPA and NBA,” Mr Parker said.

HortNZ Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley.

In a statement, HortNZ Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley said the organisation had advocated for nearly a decade for Government policy that recognised the importance of the nation’s best soils and ensured they were prioritised for fruit and vegetable production.

“Covid has taught us that we can’t take for granted that there’ll always be New Zealand grown vegetables and fruit on our retailers’ shelves,” said Ms Tunley.

“All along, we have said that with good planning, New Zealand can have fresh vegetables and fruit, and houses.”

She said HortNZ would continue its advocacy to ensure that growers can sustainably and profitably use highly productive land.

“Our fight will go on. It’s no use protecting our best land if growers cannot get access to inputs like freshwater, are bogged down with compliance, and can’t afford fertiliser or to transport their produce.”

“At the same time, growers need to know they have a skilful and reliable workforce available to plant, pick and pack. We also need to ensure that growers can afford to invest in new growing methods, in response to climate change.

“Growers only need ongoing issues in one of these areas for their viability to be compromised, which could mean vegetables and fruit cannot be sustainably grown in New Zealand in the future,” said Ms Tunley.

The National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land 2022 will be available here: https://environment.govt.nz/publications/national-policy-statement-for-highly-productive-land.

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