Hard on the heels of the publication of Our Land 2012, the Stats NZ/Ministry for the Environment report which explores land-use change and intensification in New Zealand, research by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research on the sprawl of lifestyle blocks over highly productive farms has been published in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research.
The study (not surprisingly) found demand for housing has grown so quickly over the last 20 years that urban development is starting to chew up New Zealand’s most productive land.
But a particular concern was the spread of lifestyle blocks: the researchers say the most concerning threat is when large parcels of land are divided into small and medium lifestyle blocks, starting a chain reaction of urban development over productive farmland.
They say this could limit farming options for future generations.
The abstract says:
Land fragmentation is a growing issue in New Zealand, however, no consistent or regular national monitoring has been established. A methodology for assessing land fragmentation was applied nationally for the first time, revealing that the greatest proportion of fragmentation occurred on land used for diffuse rural residence (>0.40 to ≤2.0 ha) and small parcels (>2.0 to ≤8.0 ha) with a 128% and 73% increase, respectively, between 2002 and 2019.
In New Zealand, the most highly productive land (Land Use Capability (LUC) class 1, 2 and 3) is most impacted by continued fragmentation with 38%, 28% and 17% of baseline area, respectively, occupied by medium sized parcels or smaller (≤40.0 ha) with a dwelling in 2019.
Impacts were greatest for Auckland with 40%, 44% and 25% of the region’s LUC 1, 2 and 3 land, respectively, occupied by small sized parcels or smaller with a dwelling, increasing to 64%, 67% and 47%, respectively, when including parcels ≤ 40.0 ha. Protection of LUC class 1 and 2 land, particularly, requires national attention.
This metric provides an opportunity to evaluate land fragmentation and development over time that could serve both the assessment of policy performance and environmental reporting at national and regional levels.
The research was funded by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand.
It was also supported by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research’s Strategic Science Investment Funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Science and Innovation Group.
Link to research (DOI): 10.1080/00288233.2021.1918185