As New Zealand's hunger for affordable housing pushes suburbs farther and farther from city centres, the Government announced today it has a plan to shield the nation's most fertile land from development.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the need to feed a growing population is "one of the greatest challenges facing the world right now".
"Continuing to grow food in the volumes and quality we have come to expect depends on the availability of land and the quality of the soil," he added.
"Once productive land is built on, we can't use it for food production, which is why we need to act now. We cannot afford to lose our most highly productive land."
Environment Minister David Parker said the Government is proposing a nationwide approach to protecting productive land, with 14 per cent of New Zealand land deemed highly productive.
"It’s under increasing pressure from expanding urban areas and the growing number of lifestyle blocks," Mr Parker said.
Under the proposals, councils would need to ensure highly productive land would be available for current and future primary production, and protect it from "inappropriate subdivision, use and development".
The two-month consultation period on the proposals begins today, with public meetings held around New Zealand.
The discussion document, titled ‘Valuing Highly Productive Land’, will be on the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Primary Industries websites.