Highly Productive Land

Selwyn District Council – Guidance Note:

National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land 

March 2023

What is the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL)?

The NPS-HPL is a government policy on a matter of national importance that came into effect on 17 October 2022.

The policy aims to preserve the best soils in the country for farming now, and for future generations.  It prevents ‘inappropriate subdivision and use’ of highly productive land and requires Council to avoid (decline) any subdivision or land use that reduces the productive capacity of this sort of land.   

Rural lifestyle development and urban rezoning are to be avoided (declined) on highly productive land, unless they are specifically exempted by the NPS-HPL.

How do I know if my land is HPL (highly productive land)?

Selwyn District has large areas of productive farmland which the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan) are required to map in the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement within the next 3 years.  Until this is done, HPL applies to Land Use Capability (LUC) Class 1,2 or 3.

You can find the land use classification of properties by viewing Canterbury maps.


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Figure One:  Land Use Classes in Selwyn District

How will this affect subdivision and land use on highly productive land?

The Operative and Proposed Selwyn District Plans were prepared before the NPS-HPL came into effect and have not yet been amended to take account of this new policy direction.  In the Rural Zone there are different density requirements – for example 4ha in the Rural Zone - Inner Plains, and 20ha in the Rural Zone - Outer Plains and there are rules that control effects and activities in the Rural Zone.

The NPS-HPL provides strong direction to preserve highly productive land by preventing subdivision and inappropriate land use.  This means that Council must decline applications that are not in accord with the policy (where there is scope to do this), unless the proposal meets one of the limited policy exemptions.

Currently there is no scope to consider permitted activities (that do not need to apply for consent), controlled activities (which must be approved), and those restricted discretionary activities where there is no discretion to consider NPS-HPL policies.

The NPS-HPL does apply to restricted discretionary activities (where there is discretion to consider NPS-HPL policies), discretionary activities and non-complying activities.

Subdivision of highly productive land will generally be declined under the NPS-HPL unless the applicant can demonstrate the proposal meets one of the limited exemptions.  This needs to be demonstrated by an assessment prepared by experts such as agricultural or soil specialists with suitable qualifications and experience.

Land use and development on highly productive land must not be inappropriate in terms of the NPS-HPL.  Activities that are not land-based primary production must be avoided (declined) unless at least one of the exemptions listed in Policy 3.9(2) (a-j) apply.

For both subdivision and land uses, where land is subject to permanent or long-term constraints, an exemption is provided where the proposal can meet strict criteria, and where no reasonably practicable options would retain productive capacity.

Contact Us

  • We encourage you to contact us for information about Resource Consents.
  • Either by calling in at the Environmental Services Counter at the Headquarters in Rolleston and speaking to the Duty Planner - no appointment necessary. 
  • Phone the Duty Planner on (03) 347-2868 or email contactus@selwyn.govt.nz