NZ's already small percentage of prime farmland under threat from housing — report

A new report by the Environment Ministry has raised alarm over how much highly productive land, needed to grow food, is being lost to housing.

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The Environment Ministry released a report today pointing out that just 15 per cent of New Zealand’s land is good for production to start with. Source: 1 NEWS

Every six months, the agency releases a report providing a snapshot of the state of a particular part of the environment and this time it's about land.

Just 15 per cent of New Zealand's land is good for food production, and the ministry says it's at risk of being gobbled up by urban development.

The report found that in the past two decades, the area of highly productive land that was unavailable for agriculture increase by 54 per cent. That's because it had a house on it.

During the same period, urban areas on land good for agriculture increased by nearly one-third.

Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said if this trend continues, there will be an economic cost with the supply of vegetables becoming more expensive.

Part of the problem is parcels of land are becoming increasingly smaller — especially in Canterbury, which has had the largest increases in fragmentation with the creation of lifestyle blocks outside of Christchurch. That means the productivity of the land isn't always maximised.

The report found the number and size of farms have decreased between 2002 and 2019, with 29 per cent reduction. But export incomes have increased from $23 billion in 2010 to $44 billion in 2019, suggesting fewer farms are producing more on less land.