537_ We all value and appreciate rural character. However, it is often under threat from activities and development that are inappropriate in a rural context. We must improve the way we treat and manage these areas. They are important to Auckland: their production and economic contribution, now and in future; their contribution to biodiversity and ecosystems; their offer in terms of recreation; and their spectacular landscapes.
538_ This requires a balance between maintaining the distinct character of landscapes and settlements, while providing and increasing the services that rural and urban communities depend on. In practice, this sustainable balance means that we will:
- protect some areas from any future development
- protect fertile soils from activities that reduce their productive potential
- encourage and support productive enterprises and those that fit well in a rural context (not necessarily dependent on fertile soils)
- treat cultural heritage and iconic features with the respect they deserve
- encourage growth and urban development to be focused in satellite towns and rural and coastal towns, and discourage growth in other rural areas.
539_ Rural production is valuable in many ways. It supplies food and other products, supports businesses and communities which make their living from the land, and contributes to the economy. Urban Auckland consumes many products from rural Auckland, such as aggregate for construction, fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers, wine and eggs. Some products, such as oysters, are marine- rather than land-based; there is a substantial aquaculture industry in rural Auckland. Though they are marine-based, these industries rely on the quality of surrounding rural land management, as sediment and run-off from the land reduce the water quality. Iwi have considerable investment potential in the aquaculture industry. Thriving farmers’ markets and growing equine-related businesses are notable features of rural Auckland.
540_ There are several success stories in rural Auckland, where enterprises access high-value markets and export a high proportion of product. Proximity to Auckland Airport allows rural ventures to attract investment on the basis of growing, processing, packaging, and same-day air freight directly to urban markets in Australia, Asia and North America. Rural ventures in Auckland can access diverse income streams and build close links with commercial, research, marketing, and other urban services more easily than those in remote parts of New Zealand, and new rural ventures in non-traditional areas can achieve higher value-per-hectare returns.
541_ Auckland’s rural south produces a significant proportion of New Zealand’s onions, tomatoes and potatoes. The north offers an increasing number of rural tourism attractions. It hosts vineyards and supplies niche products such as capsicums, blueberries and organics. 2% to 3% of Auckland’s GDP is attributable to agriculture and agricultural services and processing from the region. This is about $1.22 billion annually58 (see Chapter 6: Auckland’s Economy).
542_ Keeping Auckland’s rural areas rural has other benefits: quality compact development concentrates intensive and more urban-type land uses with transport and other infrastructure in rural and urban centres. This improves the vibrancy and economic potential of these centres (see Chapter 10: Urban Auckland), and offers a range of opportunities to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle in Auckland (see Chapter 4: Auckland’s Historic Heritage, and Chapter 12: Auckland’s Physical and Social Infrastructure).
543_ This Plan will build on rural production capability. Safeguarding agricultural and other land-based activities traditionally focused on protecting more versatile classes of soil by preventing fragmentation, and the conversion of land to non-rural activities. We will continue to protect the usability of rural land in general, and maintain a usable range of site sizes on land with versatile soils. We will widen this focus to safeguard other elements crucial to rural production and rural production systems, (see Chapter 7: Auckland’s Environment, Chapter 12: Auckland’s Physical and Social Infrastructure, and Chapter 13: Auckland’s Transport) such as:
- water allocation for growth and increased productivity of future agriculture
- transport links from farm gate to ports, airports, rail facilities and processing facilities, and the adequacy of storage and other logistics
- security of energy supply (electricity and gas)
- ultra-fast broadband in rural areas
- access to labour
- scope for complementary activities such as direct selling, hospitality and visitor experiences
- vulnerability of aquaculture enterprises to land-use activities within catchments
- adequate separation of intensive production businesses, from new activities such as lifestyle development
- a stable and workable regulatory framework and rating cost structure
- business activities in rural areas.
544_ Aggregate and land-based sand extraction sites and resources are essential for affordable construction and roading in Auckland. Extraction activities can have adverse effects (noise, dust, heavy truck movements and disturbance of ecosystems), and are vulnerable to reverse sensitivity effects. Land use in and around mineral extraction sites needs to be managed to ensure Auckland’s future needs can be met, and that sites are located in suitable locations, operated well and rehabilitated appropriately. A framework for managing clean fill activities is necessary too.
Agricultural opportunities in Auckland’s rural areas
- rich volcanic soils in the south, abundant rain and a (largely) frost-free climate
- close proximity to urban markets, processing facilities, research institutions, a large labour pool, diverse employment opportunities and urban amenities
- easy access to the airport for products that benefit from minimal handling and rapid dispatch, such as flowers and delicate fruit and berry crops
- opportunities for rural areas to be centres of consumption that complement production such as rural vineyards, visitor services, tourism and recreation
- a larger local market for higher-value niche agriculture and demand for fresh and local produce.
Ensure that the resources and production systems that underpin working rural land are protected, maintained and improved.
545_ Many activities in the rural environment are associated with land-based activities; for example sale yards, equipment servicing, and fencing and processing produce from the land (or sea). Activities not directly related to land-based production are important for the ongoing viability of these areas. They include tourism ventures, hospitality services, and recreational activities such as horse riding and mountain biking.
Develop a regulatory framework that accommodates and encourages productive rural uses, changing activities and associated enterprises.
546_ We need to accommodate and support a broad range of land uses, activities and opportunities that fit comfortably in their rural location, and contribute to the viability and vitality of these areas. Activities that do not suit their rural surroundings must be prevented from locating on rural land. For example, when significant retailing, industrial or office development is needed to serve rural catchments, the businesses should locate in rural towns, and in satellite towns in particular (see Section D: Development Strategy), and generally not in other rural areas.
547_ Flexibility in accommodating a wide range of activities must be balanced with maintaining future production potential, landscape and natural character, open space and recreation amenity, and bio-diversity (see Chapter 7: Auckland’s Environment). Further, the resources and production systems that underpin working rural land must be protected, maintained and improved. Figure 9.3 shows the New Zealand Land Resource Inventory (NZLIR) high productivity category 1-4 (of 10) soils.
548_ The character of our rural areas and their natural beauty is at the heart of many rural enterprises, especially the visitor and tourism industry. It is critically important to protect rural gateways and landmarks, and significant natural areas and sensitive receiving environments (see Chapter 7: Auckland’s Environment). Gateways are entry points or areas within the rural landscape that mark the transition from urban areas to areas with more rural qualities. Landmarks often include spectacular natural features and landscapes. Both establish Auckland’s sense of place.
Identify rural gateways and landmarks that help define Auckland, and provide for their protection.