Auckland councillor Chris Darby says a Government proposal to help protect prime horticultural land in areas like Pukekohe from urban sprawl could clash with its plans to increase the supply of housing and urban development.
The Auckland Council Planning Committee chairman outlined his thoughts in a recent letter to the Minister for the Environment, David Parker.
It follows the release of an Environment Court decision in December which found the supercity was expected to lose up to 31,270ha of its most productive land over the next 35 years to urban sprawl.
Darby said while there were safeguards for the city's most productive land under the Auckland Unitary Plan and the Rural Urban Boundary, such protections are continually under pressure and being challenged through resource consents and private plan changes.
He referred to a proposal by developer Askew Consultants to rezone 34.5ha of prime horticultural land in Patumahoe, a small rural town south of Auckland, for housing and industry.
There is already development taking place on the outskirts of the town and widespread redevelopment planned in nearby Drury, Opāheke, Pukekohe and Paerata.
Under the Government's proposed National Policy Statement on Highly Productive Land (NPS HPL) councils would be required to ensure there was enough highly-productive land available for primary production now and in the future, and protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.
Darby said as a result, it was more important than ever that the Government's proposal is signed off as soon as possible.
It is expected to go to Cabinet for approval this year and if it is approved it will take effect in the first half of 2021.
But Darby said the policy could clash with the Government's other plans for urban development.
"In particular greater clarity is needed at a national level on how to resolve the potential conflicts that are likely to occur between a direction for greater provision of development capacity/and supply for housing and business and the direction to preserve highly productive land for rural production."
The Government's National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which came into effect in August last year, was designed to address existing constraints on housing and urban development.
Under the policy councils are expected to allow for greater growth, both up and out, in the country's main urban centres.
But the Minister for the Environment David Parker said the proposal for protecting highly productive land is in keeping with its other initiatives on urban development and freshwater management.
He said it will give councils greater clarity in their planning and provide for primary production when planning new urban areas.
"It will also help councils to plan for compact, liveable communities and better consider the need for our urban area to 'grow up' as well as 'grow out'."
And Parker said the Natural and Built Environment Act, one of three pieces of legislation expected to replace the Resource Management Act, will also have to take into account the different national policy statements and how they operate.