The District’s land resource is largely rural. The rural area is defined as, land within any Rural 1, Rural 2, Rural 3, Rural Residential, Rural Industrial, or Conservation Zone, or within any Tourist Services, Open Space, or Recreation Zone adjoining any of the above zones. The rural production zones are the Rural 1 and Rural 2 Zones, and the Rural 3 Zone where that zone contains land with high productive value.
Overall, the rural land resource provides the District’s main opportunities to safeguard the life-supporting capacity of water, soil and ecosystems; to preserve and protect the natural character of the coast; to protect outstanding natural features and landscapes; to address the environment quality and amenity values of the District, and to sustain the land and soil resource to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations.
The Rural 1 Zone comprises the most inherently productive land in the District, and includes about five percent of the total rural land area. The TRMP seeks to protect this high productive land, with a priority to retain and enhance opportunities for plant and animal production. This high productive land is a finite resource and its loss through fragmentation (subdivision and development) is effectively irreversible. Rural living opportunities are enabled in the Rural 1 Zone where the actual or potential productive value of the land is retained and there is no risk of further fragmentation.
The Rural 2 Zone covers land areas which do not have high productive value, and which may have varying productive value. The TRMP recognises the Rural 2 Zone land as having potential for a range of plant and animal production activities, but this is generally based on a lower intensity of use and development than in the Rural 1 Zone. As the Rural 2 Zone comprises land which is of more limited productive value than that in the Rural 1 Zone, the subdivision size threshold is larger.
The area of the Rural 3 Zone comprises a substantial proportion of land, which has high productive value (generally in the more coastal areas), but it includes dispersed areas of lower value (generally in the more inland parts of the zone). It has a location, topography and specific landscape values, including natural features, which means it is attractive for, and has come under pressure for, residential development. This area has been identified as suitable for further development through the provisions of specific subdivision and development opportunities, while retaining the land of high productive value for plant and animal production activities.
The Rural Residential Zone is defined as the use of a rural site, primarily for residential purposes, with any farming or other rural activity being ancillary. The Rural Residential Zone covers a wide range of types of rural areas, and provides for the District’s demand for rural living.
Papakainga Zone, Rural Industrial Zone, and the Tourism Services Zone. These Zones cover small parts of the wider rural environment. Most of these areas are of lower productive value.
The District’s rural land for productive value has been classed using an eight class classification that assesses factors of ground slope, soil depth, drainage, inherent fertility, climate factors of soil temperature, available soil moisture and sunshine. Classes A, B and C are high productive value lands with versatility, or productivity for any particular crop regime. Availability of water is also an important attribute for high productive value.
Rural landscapes in some parts of the district are large and expansive. In other areas they are small and localised. Both scales of landscape may have significant values, with the small intimate landscape in valleys and secluded coastal and inland areas being particularly vulnerable to major change. Larger, highly visible, landscape units may also be vulnerable to change, especially where visually prominent land forms are affected.
Land fragmentation and development of structures, roads and utility services can have a major impact on the rural landscape, particularly over time as cumulative effects of more intensive use and development begin to emerge. Subdivision is usually a precursor to development, so the TRMP recognises the importance of taking potential effects on landscape values into account at the time that subdivision consents are sought.