Loburn in North Canterbury is a gorgeous place with rolling hills, nice views and no one about. In the last decade there has been quite a bit of what they call subdivision out here. This is different to the city though - here subdivision means creating 4 hectare (10 acre) blocks.
Given the amount of land about I suppose this makes some sense. But many people out here only want 1 hectare and find managing 4 is a lot of work. Why is there nothing in between the small town 0.1 hectare town sections and the 4 hectare block. OK there is to some extent, but why not more?
The answer appears to be environmental. This is from a Taupo Council document:
The Proposed District Plan will be amended to provide Council with greater control over development in the rural environment. This is likely to involve increasing the minimum lot size to 10 hectares in the rural area, and making subdivision below 4 hectares a non-complying activity. This is designed to create a “true rural environment” that recognises rural amenity, creates a clear distinction between the different forms of urbanisation and rural land use, and reduces the future demands and cumulative pressures on roading and other infrastructure
This is at least an honest. More ridiculous is the idea that the land can only support a few people per 10 hectares because of the septic tanks, etc.
But it is still very poor policy. By restricting people's choice, we are forced to purchase more land than we need at higher cost. Much of this land is then wasted, because we don't use much of it for anything productive. In fact we resent at least half the block because of the hassle it causes. It certainly makes the place look rural, but why do we need these sharp divisions between town and country?
It is obvious that people want to live in mid-sized blocks, perhaps an acre or two, and many find the upkeep of 10 acres takes over their lives. Also, the large waste of land this entails means it that land is lost to farming uses, or is farmed on such a small scale as to be non-viable.
Finally, it pushes up the cost. A block out here costs $250k at the moment which is a stupid amount of money for a section in the middle of nowhere. Where, exactly, are people with not a lot of money supposed to live? I think a reasonable price would be $50k, like it was 10 years ago.
There has been quite a bit of stuff written about house prices going up. A two-year-old Moku report tried to work out the relationship between price and supply and found that a 10% increase in land supply (relative to population) decreases house prices by 8%. I wonder what amount of decrease in supply we have had over the past 10 years. Based on these numbers, a lot.
It is high time that the councils stopped acting to restrict the supply of land. It is not their job to tell us what section size is good for us. We can figure that out for ourselves, thanks. I suggest a rates penalty on the council if housing affordability reduces 3 years in a row. If the environmentalists want to keep the land in 4 hectare blocks, then they can buy it.