Making tough choices
An article entitled Tough Choice — Houses or Food in the February 22 issue of NZ Farmers Weekly struck a chord with me regarding council’s current district plan review and the decisions we must make.
The article was based on comments by economist Shamubeel
Eaqub, who was quoted as saying that “New Zealand needs a policy to allow for population growth while ensuring enough productive land remains to feed extra people.” Some interesting facts were noted, for example that in the 35 years from 1975 Auckland lost 10,080ha of high-value land, and other regions, such as Canterbury and Waikato, also had significant losses. Other reports I’ve seen have said that lifestyle blocks are also having an impact — in 2013 they covered 10 per cent of New Zealand’s best land.
Farmers Weekly highlighted Shamubeel’s concerns that “you can’t swap a hectare of high-quality vegetable land in Pukekohe and simply grow the same things on a hectare down south,” and urging policy-makers to put a 100-year perspective on decisions made today.
These concerns and more are the very issues we too must face in our district. Consider the demands on urban growth in Kerikeri and the last 35 years over which that growth has occurred. Consider the loss to housing of elite horticultural land and the increasing demand of retirement units. Also consider the spread of lifestyle blocks in the greater area known as Kerikeri, and the pressure on infrastructure to serve such a large area.
How do we balance urban growth while protecting our highvalue soils across the whole district? How can we ensure soils better suited for horticulture throughout the whole district are preserved, even if they are currently under low-return farming?
Nor are these problems limited to Kerikeri. Paihia is under pressure through significant seasonal population increases. Kaitaia is experiencing massive growth in horticulture and associated water demands. Then we have long-term considerations of climate change, environmental degradation and the like.
These are the very issues raised in the consultative phase of the district plan review. Your responses are currently being considered by our planning staff. It all takes time, but I’m sure all can see why it’s so important and critical to get it right. The planning, policies, and associated strategies must have a 50 to 100-year perspective, and include the whole Far North District.
Sure, tough choices will need to be made, but even more importantly, they need to be the right choices. That will mean involving our respective communities in these decisions, ensuring choices are backed with solid evidence and sound government policies. We will also need zoning that supports and protects appropriate land use and encourages sustainable development to ensure a future for our children.
"The planning, policies, and associated strategies must have a 50 to 100-year perspective, and include the whole Far North District."